It always amazes me when we study the Bible and someone says, “You know we must remember that it was a lot easier for the original hearers to do that.” Even though we don’t say it we might think it.
We’re currently studying the concept of community and last night we looked at all the allelon scriptures. Allelon is the Greek word for “one another.” We discussed which of those commands we find difficult and also talked about the environment we’ll have to create if we were to actually fulfill those instructions.
In the midst of our discussion, the abovementioned statement descended unto the conversation. I didn’t respond then, so afford me some space to think out loud.
As a reward for living out the “one another” directives most of the original apostles were first banned from the synagogues. Some of them were stoned and beaten and a significant number of them were martyred and eventually paid for their commitment with their lives. The original listeners knew the stakes were high and they didn’t budge. Not even a date with the lions could deter them from living according to the Master’s directions. Do we really think it was easier for them?
Ironically a lot of the allelon commands came from a man who made it is own personal mission to kill Christians who were living in community.
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1-3
Now the “they had it easier” comment is usually made as a rationalization for not taking the time to spend with others. It can be translated in other words like this:
The early Christians were not as busy as we are, they also didn’t have the hassle of living far from other people. Being in close proximity they could just pop in for a visit. Most of them never had any demanding jobs and they could afford hanging out and just doing all the one another commands. Time wasn’t money and it was easier for them.
For most of us, the major reason for not living in community is time. We do a cost/benefit analysis and then we realize that if I do the “one another” commands it will cost us a lot of money and the benefit will ‘only’ be relationships and so we settle for a ‘church life’ that consists of an hour a week.
For the original hearers the cost benefit looked something like this: if I commit to the “one another’ commands then there’s a possibility that I’ll loose my life, yet I’m going to do it anyway.
When we look at the practicalities of being in community it might involve trading in our expensive car for a cheaper one so that we can spend the hours we would work to pay it off with people. It might mean sacrifices in material things, yet most of us will not pay with our lives – like the ‘original hearers.’ It might feel like we’re loosing our lives, but it’s only stuff. The fact that we feel like we’re dying, makes our situation even more lamentable.
Even though it might seem easier for them, it’s actually the other way around.