Take a close look at the definition below, found in the latest Webster’s Dictionary. One cannot help but notice how modernized the definition is, offering the traditional definition (Number 1) and the modern (Number 2).
1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
“Rhode Island’s Japanese community”
|2.a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”The sense of community that organized religion can provide”|
Here is the 1828 Webster Dictionary definition:
1. Properly, common possession or enjoyment; as a community of goods.It is a confirmation of the original community of all things.
2. A society of people, having common rights and privileges, or common interests, civil, political or ecclesiastical; or living under the same laws and regulations. This word may signify a commonwealth or state, a body politic, or a particular society or order of men within a state, as a community of monks; and it is often used for the public or people in general, without very definite limits.
There seems to be some confusion amongst us, today! We have gone from understanding community in a very real way to understanding it in a very artificial way, as Christians. We have somehow been divided by someone or something and we have actually been accepting it, especially in the West (with America as the heartbeat of this acceptance).
- Is community a real concept, where people actually organize their lives together, forming villages and even entire nations? Or is community something that only involves our senses, as the modern definition above suggests it can be?
- Can community be either one of the two definitions? If so, how do we reconcile almost two thousand years of the traditional definition?
- Why are western – especially American – Christians not willing to embrace the traditional definition?
There are many things that the early, Pre-Nicene- Church retained as she grew from the persecuted Church to the Imperial Church. She retained the personhood of Christ and all of the doctrines that were attached to that, she retained the way we worship and pray, but she also retained something that is extremely important in the Christian faith: Community!
When Christ commanded us to love our neighbor, to feed the poor, to not chase after wealth, and to turn the other cheek, he was not teaching us these things for the sake of an intellectualized dogma-message, rather these things were meant for us to use for community.
In Acts, Chapter Two, we see how this fleshed out, where the entire Church sold all they had to “have all things in common.” There are some modern day scholars and teachers that claim this was for the sake of persecution, and certainly this is true…The Church had to take extreme measure to stand against the pagans of that time. But what happens when we are not being persecuted like that of the first three centuries? Are we to abandon community simply because there is no one being slaughtered in our immediate area, or was Christian community meant to have a much deeper meaning behind it? If we look to Christ and what he commanded from us, we can indeed see that community is far more than about escaping persecution, or somehow saving our flesh.
In our modern day of the more masonic community, where the community revolves not around the Church and the faith, but around institutions that have replaced the ministries of the Church and faith, we may think that community consists of simple connections whenever we have the ability to make them. This can certainly be considered as a valid form of community, but only in a persecuted environment. In other words, if we are persecuted by the state or some other entity, then, yes, we can only meet together when we can meet together.
Are we being persecuted in the West? This is the question. If we are not, then why in the world do we not have what we had before, which is an entire Christian empire? The reason seems elementary: and that is, we are indeed persecuted, because we know that if we tried to build any sort of Christian community in the USA, we would be smashed by local and federal governments with laws that are designed to stop this sort of economical and spiritual growth. We simply cannot get away with it…unless we were united in the faith, which of course, we are not. Diversity in the west is honored!
The Ultimate Deception
The ultimate deception of our age is that we have become numb to what the Christian life is all about, and that is, to be the salt of the earth. When Christ commands us to be the salt and light of the earth, he does not ask us to build a network of ceremony buildings (churches), he commands us to build community. This is why the Church became an empire, and continued to grow across the earth as an empire for many centuries. We are called to evangelize people into a community, a real community, and not a mere ceremony, not “a feeling of fellowship with others” as the modern definition states. Indeed, it all starts as a ceremony, but it cannot and must not stop at the ceremony. Saint James says that an unstable man is one that looks in the mirror, and then forgets what he looks like when he walks away. We cannot and must not become reflective in ceremony and then forget how it actually manifests in our lives.
One will say that the Gospel manifests in our lives through “love” and “caring,” etc. Yes, but what does this actually look like? How does it pan out into creation itself?
No Christian will deny that our worship is to manifest in good works, but many, I think, will deny that these good works manifest in to martyrdom! Imagine if the early Christians were not willing to be martyred. Imagine if they simply submitted to the Roman government and only became a ceremonial community. Imaging if they did not insist that the community at large be infiltrated by Christ. This is what they did; they refused to allow the government to place Christ as just one of the many pagan gods. They refused to give allegiance to the state, rather than the community of Christ. They could have escaped much persecution if they just bowed to the pagan czar, and then walked out of the court believing that bow was only ‘outward’ and that the real work was to evangelize a ceremonial community alone!
When we read the stories of the early martyrs we see how men and women stood for the very advancement of real and living community, a community that was interdependent on one another, who where dedicated to Christ’s will on earth as it is in heaven.
So, what do we do? We cannot all move to Greece or Russia to help them revive. We cannot revolt and convert America through the current evangelistic strategy we currently have. We really cannot even take a stand for “the east.’” In other words, we cannot say “I stand for Russian, etc.” The reason is that Russia may or may not make it back to being the empire of Christ. Prophesy says they will for a short time, but where does that leave us Western people, if it is only temporal, just before Christ’s return?
Does it leave us to just throw in the towel and enjoy what we believe to be from God….Walmart, Costco, Hollywood, etc? I don’t think so. I think it might mean speaking out as a fool for Christ! It might mean speaking, and speaking, and speaking, until our tongues are cut out like that of St Maximus…Well maybe not, but perhaps it means becoming very ascetic, praying in silence, forsaking worldliness for the return of the King. Or maybe it means making serious and positive changes in your life, regarding your family and church. Whatever it may be that you pursue, it is likely going to revolve around something that the current secular culture does not approve of. The road is narrow, and there are few who find it, Christ says!
What does this road look like for you?