COME! Join me for a brief but revealing journey into the world of communal living. There are many reasons why people live in community, and their motivations and intentions become evident with the type of community that results. The spectrum is wide -- the kibbutzim in Israel, peace and love communes of the sixties, centuries-old religious movements, teepee villages in the valleys of Wales, alternative groups in the abandoned towns in the mountains of Spain.
From the Outback to the Andes, Oregon to Maine, Argentina to Japan, communalism has sprouted all over the earth. But our trip comes to an abrupt end, because many of these attempts that once spanned the globe are dead, others around the planet are falling apart, and the rest are trying to rally together, hoping to help each other survive. Many people are drawn to a communal lifestyle, but it does not last long. Even communities that have endured the test of time are groping to find out how community can survive.
Why is community in peril? One factor responsible for the decline of community from the 60's to the 90's (or in any age, for that matter) is that selfishness cannot be eradicated. Nothing can take the place of self in man. No matter how noble or how lofty his intentions, man is engulfed by his fallen human nature and self rules supreme to the end. We are what we are and we cannot make ourselves into anything else.
Yet, I want to tell you that there is another reason to live in community, apart from selfish concerns. There is a higher purpose for choosing a communal life other than self-interest or extreme loneliness. There is a reason that not only guarantees survival, but is also the catalyst that may well be the final saving light to this endangered planet, a world which is in jeopardy and on the brink of extinction.
Let's go back to the year 30 CE, to the land of Judea and the city of Jerusalem. Here was the beginning of the first community that was not intentional on man's part, but was God's intention. The people living and visiting that city had gathered for as many reasons and purposes as there could be communities. But the last thing on their mind was to purposely start a community. None of them intended such a drastic change in their lifestyle. The events are vividly illustrated in Acts 2:38-47 and Acts 4:32-37. It makes no bones about it. In one day, three thousand people started living in common unity. It was not because they decided to live together. They did not anticipate the events of Acts 2 and 4. Those men and women heard a messenger and his message, and they received both. From his mouth came words about a man who had been sacrificed for the forgiveness of their sins. Their hearts were stirred by the words about the One who was powerful to save man from all his deep-seated maladies and heal his infirmities.
Cutting to the deepest part of their being, this spoken word exposed their condition and their need to be forgiven. It caused their eyes to be opened to Him who is the way out of the bondage that enslaves all men. Echoing in their ears and piercing their hearts were words of authority from the apostles who had the anointing of God. That word caused faith to germinate in their hearts -- a faith to believe and to obey. Their mouths confessed the only name given to man by which he must be saved -- Yahshua, God's salvation. Immersed into the death of the old self and resurrected into a life of self-denial, they were baptized and began to carry their cross daily, following Him who died and rose on their behalf. Transferred from a wicked and perverse generation, they came into a new existence -- the community of God, the commonwealth of Israel, the body of Messiah. Radically transformed by a passionate love for their Savior and obedience to His word, they were of one heart, one mind, one purpose, and one intention. They were one just as their God was one. How could they not be together, for the Word of God had Himself come to take residence on earth, not in a stone building, but in a flesh and blood people. This brought about an earth-shaking event that turned the world upside down -- the community in Jerusalem, 30 CE!
The pattern and foundation of this first community demonstrates why we, too, live in community. When we began, we had no concept of community or any intention of making such a drastic change in our lifestyle. We never intended to start an intentional community. We just started out loving the One who had loved us. When we were saved we became disciples and there was nothing else we could do but follow our Master Yahshua. We loved Him, wanted to follow and obey Him and give our lives to Him and to one another. Love compelled us to take care of one another and to share a life together.
Community is set up and maintained by the kind of love John 13:34 describes. If there is not this kind of love -- agape love, a warm ahavah love -- community cannot endure. God is love, and where love is, there is God. Community is based on love, laying down our lives for each other. Love also brings about obedience. Our Master said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." Community is established and maintained by keeping His commandments. It is only set up by obedience to His word, and preserved by obedience to His word. It is impossible not to live in community if you obey the Word of God. Obedience necessitates community. We could not help but live in community because we wanted to obey our Master Yahshua. Obedience to His word led us to community, and if we continue to obey His word, community will continue. Community is formed through obeying His word, and is perpetuated by obeying His word. Once we stop obeying and quit loving, community will self-destruct in three minutes.