Sunday, 31 August 2014
Everything in Common
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
There was something about the quality and character of this first group of Christians that made such an impact on the people around them that every day they found that new believers were being added to their numbers.
A little later in the same scripture we read in Acts 4:32
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
In both passages we find the same phrase, had all things in common. That word common has more to do with a quality of life rather than some sort of legal organisation. Indeed we find described in both passages what the practical outworking of this character or quality of having all things in common. That word translated as common is the Greek word κοινά. This is related to the word κοινωνία which is used in the New Testament in the sense of communion.
To share in a communion is to enter into the closest and most profound unity. In the New Testament we are taught of the communion of the body and blood of the Lord. In receiving these precious and life-giving elements of the eucharist we are not merely reminded of Christ, but we come to share in his life as he gives himself to us.
There is this same sense in the phrase, had all things in common. These all things are not merely food and drink, possessions and wealth. Nor is the having all things in common a matter of the early believers submitting to some legal code that required the sharing of property. On the contrary, there is in this earliest Christian community, such a communion, a profound sharing of life itself as a matter of the heart, that all the practical aspects of life were naturally transformed into expressions of this one common life.
Those who belong to one another, who have shared their hearts at the most profound level by entering into communion with Christ and each other, can no longer be divided from one another by the things of the world.
Do we experience this? Or does it remain an aspiration and an inspiration. Is it something which calls us and draws us to the extent that we have already participated in a true communion and desire it more completely? To have only our possessions in common is to have nothing in common. But to have our hearts in common, in communion through and in Christ, is to have all in common.
Thanks to the two friends who have contributed towards this research project. You are an encouragement and expression of having all things in common. Funding is still required.
If you wish to be kept informed of developments in this study, and participate in online discussion, then please join the Facebook Group - Discovering Orthodox Community.