I believe it was Francis Schaeffer who asked the question, “How should we then live?” Then, of course, is a vital part of the question. Once we know a certain array of facts, they affect our lives. The knowledge we receive, we become responsible for.
I wrote recently about a man who assumed that everyone *who has made different choices than he has in life* is a bad person. Though opinions like that seem narrow-minded and ignorant, we all have a tendency to make them.
And since he was talking particularly about communities, it makes me think of the different types of communities people form. Though many simply stay where they were born, some people search for decades to find a community that fits with their ideals.
There are many people who have decided that the first century community of The Way described in Acts 4:32 is the perfect community. “No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” It does indeed sound beautiful, and in their persecuted state, it was an effective way to survive.
Unfortunately, every experiment in the modern world devoted to “sharing everything equally” has failed, possibly because the first part of that verse is actually a prerequisite: “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” That was necessary before the sharing could happen successfully. And even in those days, pride and hypocrisy intruded to mar the serenity. It was in this setting that Ananias and Sapphira conspired in a pretense of selfless generosity and were put to death for it. God cares much more about the desires of our hearts than He does about our net worth.
Not long after that incident, though, heavy persecution arose against that community. Stephen was stoned, and Saul went on a rampage, dragging people from their homes and imprisoning them. To escape this horror, the community fled from Jerusalem into the outlying areas. It occurred to me recently that this Jerusalem commune, so idealized by many in the church, only existed for a very short time before God allowed it to be scattered. It makes me think that God did not want them living in that setting. Yes, God is all about community and gathering with other believers, but He doesn’t want us to insulate ourselves. Peter wrote in his first epistle, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” (2: 12) Did you catch that? Live among the pagans!
I believe it’s tempting for church people to seclude themselves, to stop associating with unbelievers. When we do that, we become ignorant of them. Though we once numbered among them, we forget–we lose our compassion for them. We become like that poor man who thinks that rural people are stupid and bad. We judge harshly because we don’t understand them and don’t see the problems they face.
Maybe you have never thought about this before, but I want to challenge you. This week, deliberately seek out someone who thinks differently than you and spend some time trying to understand them–not to become like them, but to strengthen what is true.
Live such a GOOD life among the pagans that they will learn to glorify God.