#0085 All the believers were one in heart and mind
Scripture relevant to today’s posting…
Parable of the weeds
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like someone who planted good seed in his field. 25 While people were sleeping, an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 When the stalks sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Then how is it that it has weeds?’
28 “‘An enemy has done this,’ he answered.
“The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?’
29 “But the landowner said, ‘No, because if you gather the weeds, you’ll pull up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvest time I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn.” ’”
Matt. 13: 24-30 (CEB)
Today’s posting is part IV of an excerpt from the book I am currently working on. This article looks at the difference between an hierarchy-based community and a community which is NOT hierarchy-based; this type of community would utilize concepts and principals of egalitarianism. The reason I wanted to talk about this is because, although Jesus’s message was filled with elements of the egalitarian principal, the Church continues to operate within the well-worn hierarchical structure, embracing and pushing its principles. In this post I rewrote some of what I posted last time and added to it. I don’t usually do this but as this is an excerpt from a book I am in the process of writing; I thought I would make an exception.
(Continued from Wednesday 4-20-16)
- The next influence in many ways was born out of the first but at the same time it can be seen as emerging from the early struggles within the Church as it tried to establish itself as an entity. Remember that once Jesus left the earth the job of continuing what He had started fell to these early disciples. To this end they felt their very first priority was to get themselves organized in both what they believed about Jesus (who He was and in what ways He wanted them to fill His shoes) and once they came to consensus about this; to get their story out to other people in a profound and convincing way. In the process of working this up the disciples kind of lost their way and the allure of the old hierarchical structure they were so used to won the day and they began to flex their authority muscles. As we read in the Pentecost account the Holy Ghost was working way out in front of them beating the bushes for new people who were ready to hear what the disciples had to say about Jesus. It was during this period that the disciples failed to realize how extensive the Holy Ghost’s reach was. They started thinking it was themselves and their authority that was invoking such a grand response from the people they were witnessing to. It kind of reminds us of an account that followed Jesus’s resurrection when some of the disciples were out in their boat fishing and not having much luck. Along comes Jesus (who’s been resurrected at this point) and calls out to them from the shore suggesting that they should try casting their nets on the other side of the boat. He was evidently far enough away from them so they couldn’t make out his features and when they did as He recommended, their nets were filled to the point of busting with fish. It was at this point that Peter got the spiritual gist of what was happening; who this guy actually was and with his heart filled to the point of bursting with joy, he dove over the side of the boat and swam into shore to be with his master and his friend—Jesus. Pentecost was the same sort of deal for them. You see in both instances it was God who was bringing the miracle to the experience. In the first it was Jesus who enticed the fish into the nets of the disciples and without this miracle part of the equation their nets would have remained empty. At Pentecost it was the Holy Ghost working ahead of the disciples as they went out into the streets who beckoned all of those people to within the sound of their voices. Additionally the Holy Ghost inspired both the minds of the disciples with the message as well as the prowess to accurately express the message. All the while doing this the Holy Ghost was simultaneously impacting the minds, hearts and ears of all who were in attendance with the divine significance of what they were hearing. It was a short time after this first encounter that the disciples begin to lose their way and embrace the hierarchical idea of priesthood and the notion of authority that comes with it.
Because the Pharisees had misinterpreted Jesus’s motives as being competitive in nature it caused them to dig in their heels and take a defensive position towards Him and His teachings. Meanwhile, on the other side of things, Jesus’s teachings of peace and reconciliation where readily being embraced by the vast numbers of common folks He encountered (which he referred to as the poor in spirit). They weren’t threatened by His message. The opposite was true; it seemed to evoke a sympathetic vibration within their spirits. The type of automatic response that began to take shape within the souls of these people upon hearing His message is generally described using terms such as love, peace and reconciliation. All of these sentiments combined with some others are put into application in the community dynamic we are calling egalitarianism. Here is a scripture in Acts 4 which, although very brief, describes this egalitarian community.
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Acts 4:32-37 (NIV)
In this chapter of Acts we begin to glimpse the egalitarian community we’ve been talking about. The idea of the people living in this type of structure, in the very early Christian community can be said to be a direct and immediate out-cropping of their experience on Pentecost with the Holy Ghost. The sucking wind that heralded the influx of the Holy Ghost upon the earth earmarks the beginning of a new era; not just from a monotheistic religious viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of all humanity as well as for its benefit. As I read further on into the next chapter I became discouraged and was tempted to forego the inclusion of this scripture because of what it says. After a day or two of further ruminating on it however I began to get a more positive perspective. What my more in-depth contemplation led me to understand was my problems with this scripture weren’t with the scripture itself but with the conventional interpretation of it. In addition I came to see that this account, as is the case with many scriptures, is laid out using just a few sentences—providing a very terse description—which is attempting to convey a large-scaled concept. On top of that, this particular concept was a dynamic that was only just beginning to emerge in the very beginning of the Christian movement. This is an example of the over-familiarization with a scripture that’s been sited over and over for the purpose of validating an established doctrine. As this is done, the interpretation is drawn into a much narrower perspective and eventually the scripture gets stuck with that narrow interpretation. If we can free this scripture from its traditional and narrow interpretation and consider it outside of these preconceptions, however we may be able to begin looking at it through a much bigger lens—a Kingdom lens. Doing this we might be able to discern the tone of this message changing as it goes along. Notice this change of tone especially between verse 4 (see above), which is very positive and uplifting to verse 5 which seems to mutate into something sounding more like a threat…
1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
Acts 5: 1-6 (NIV)
If you have a question or thought about this or other postings please feel free to send them in. Thanks for reading.
TBC: Wednesday, April 27, 2016