Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Gospel is communal

When I hear of Christians or the world at large talk about "cults" it is usually talking about a group of people who have withdrawn from the world or have otherwise disengaged in "normal" activities. I find it amusing that we find this kind of activity so weird when we've been called to exactly that.

No, I'm not talking about specific ideas, not vindicating any or all "cults." What I'm talking about is Christ called us out of the world to be set apart. He called us to a new way of thinking, of living. When we live exactly like the world except we listen to different musicians, we go to Church and TiVo the football games instead, when we give a portion of our income (if we're real "good"), don't drink or smoke - and that's what a Christian life is ... really, that's the radical way of life Jesus called us to?

I heard criticism within the Church after the shootings in Colorado at the YWAM base and the mega-church. Some people said YWAM was a cult because the people who join it tend to not own much, they don't participate in most regular frivolous activities and they go on trips and arrange events. So our own Church looks down on Christian living as if its weird. We've gotten really good at taking the teachings of Christ and of his Apostles and twisting them into our pagan way of life. When Christ said, "Turn the other cheek" we say it only applies to verbal abuse. "Love your enemy" means those you disagree with in the Church body.

One specific text I want to bring up and give a call to action is in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15.
"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.'"
What is this about? Equality with whom? In this case it is with our brothers and sisters in the Lord, the Body of Christ. This passage quotes from Exodus 16 where God supplies manna to the Israelites in the desert. Those who gathered much had just enough and those who gathered little also had enough. There was enough to go around. Similarly, God has given us each enough to go around. Some have been given little, and some much. Some have so much they don't need it all, and some have not a lot at all. Paul implores the Corinthians to share with those in their time of need, and when they are in need they will receive in return.

This is clearly a well-ignored biblical teaching.

I don't believe in tithe. In Deut. 14 the tithe is clearly used as a communal service - a party if you will. The quote no pastor wants you to read, "exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish." This celebration of giving was to go to the Levites (who ran the temple), the alien, orphan and widow. But clearly Jesus called us to give 100% of ourselves to God. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God's." When the Apostles took the Gospel to the gentiles they removed all requirements of the law except for eating blood, meat sacrificed to idols, things strangled, and to stay away from fornication. Tithe was not in this. What was taught was this communal giving. One of the signs of the Pentecost was the believers having all things in common.

So I took a very long time to get to this point. I have things others don't that I want to make available to every believer. I want to give everything I have and everything I am to the Body of Christ. Why complain about not having community without intentionally living it? Will it just come about if we don't do it?

More theology here, but talk about the Eucharist here. The manifestation of the Body of Christ here on earth when believers are gathered in "two or three" in communion. Imagine Christ literally working through his transubstantiated body here on earth to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless. Perhaps we can be on the side of the Sheep when He comes in judgment through His grace and mercy on our lives.

1 comment:

His Name Extoled said...

I have never been involved in a body that would call YWAM a cult as I am very particular with the body I commit to, but I do find such happenings sad. While I have read your arguments against tithe, I am undecided on the matter. But I do think the principle behind tithe we completely agree upon. Where I fellowship, tithe has been addressed, and my pastors hold that 10% should be a starting point, and that a believer should want to give much more to the larger body. One of the things I love about my body is the fact that the men who delegate the church's funds are very frugal, and as my pastor says, they make a penny a dollar. Theres that, the fact the pastors receiving enough to be good stewards to their family and not horde wealth (as my pastor has not had a sabbatical but has chosen to distribute the funds elsewhere), and the fact that the majority of the funds go to those in need and the missionaries by body supports. This is one of the reasons I love my body. I have been encouraged to give, but as I was working part time and barely getting by, I talked with the pastors about it and they were very understanding and challenged me to give as I could, after taking care of my responsibilities. I found this healthy and beautiful. Theres a huge danger I have heard a lot from seeker friendly business run churches, and that is that you have to give 10% even if you don't see how you can, and if you trust God he will provide. No doubt he can, and no doubt he has stretched people in that way, but doing so when you're barely making it should only be drawn out by God, and not by men who encourage gifts because they need the money. Giving should not be just money but should always include time and other things as there is need, and we should aim at giving not 10%, but 100% of all we have. At that point you are very right. I hope and pray God brings forth more churches that use the giving to primarily benefit the local, communal, and global body first. I also hope and pray that God awakens believers to give and be charitable, to their body of worship, and to their brothers and sisters in need. Not gifts out of necessity and law, but gifts out of love. The gospel is communal brother.