What’s Mine Is Yours (?)

28 04 2010

You know when you read something in the Bible that you don’t even know how to really bring into this “modern” day?  Acts 4:32 is one of those:

“The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common.”

Really, honestly, how do you get practical with this verse? I am going to have more questions in this blog than answers, I know it already.

Usually I hear about this verse when the conversation comes up about being “in community” with one another; that we ought to know each other’s needs and be creative about helping one another. I think this verse is used when we talk about “our stuff” and how we ought not hoard what we have; we ought to not think of ourselves as “owners” but rather stewards; we talk about sharing, giving, serving.

But actually, seriously, holding everything “in common”? I know there have been attempts over the years; people try a new approach at communal living, or leave their front doors unlocked for a while, or lend out their lawn-mower more frequently. But living a life where you don’t think of anything as your own, can that even be done?

I am thinking about why this seems complicated. I think it is the value I place on things. I think it is trying to even figure out “how would that work” if everything is held in common? How do you keep track, what do you do when things get broken, who is responsible? What is fair?

And then there is “my space” — in North America we have a really warped sense of space (we think we need a lot). If people get too close, too often, we feel like our space has been invaded.  We don’t even realize that the way we live is actually totally unnatural.  Two-thirds of the world lives in very close quarters.  Does our sense of “space entitlement” get in the way of having all things in common?

Maybe asking too many questions about this just gets in the way of discovery. Maybe we ought to just try something and see how it all lands; make adjustments as we go.

I tried setting up a blog for a while and called it “The Commons” (there is actually a park called that in Boston, by the way, I liked that. A common area). People could post things they were willing to give away for free, and other people could have them. I posted job opportunities and rental opportunities. I should do that again. I think that was actually a good idea. It did actually work; I know we gave quite a few things away. I think we changed websites, I changed roles, and it sort of disappeared. Maybe I will try that again.

But it isn’t just about giving it all away, it’s about sharing (do we all really need a fertilizer spreader?): I wonder what would happen if I went around our house and photographed our stuff and set up a blog and said, here is what we have. If you need to use it, let us know. Would that work, or not at all?

It is interesting to think of how we can use technology to create actual, meaningful connections; but we also need to know people around us and what is going on; not everything can be an online transaction.

Doing things in real-time may be a one-way thing at times (giving money to the homeless, for example, or doing something for someone you really don’t know), but I think this verse in Acts is really highlighting relationship as well. We need to move towards being one with one another; be in conversation and share with each other during ordinary times and difficult times so we redefine what normal is.

Undoubtedly, we struggle with making this verse practical. Sometimes Christians even use this verse as a soap-box sermon for everything that is wrong-with-Christians-these-days. Thing is, Acts 4:23 is a verse with an echo.  I can’t read it out-loud for others to get it. As soon as I say it, it echos back to me.  As soon as I point out its expectation, it points it out to me. As soon as I think the Church has a lot to learn, I realize that’s me. So I need to bring my short-fall and you need to and we need to and we just need to figure this out, together. Together. Let’s stay at the table.

I think the question is, how do we actually take on the attitude of those first Christians who shared? It’s 2010, times have changed, but I think the call of that verse has stayed the same.

What are your ideas about this? I would love to hear them…

— Teresa Klassen

Afterword: C.S. Lewis Quote of the day: “God’s demand for perfection need not discourage you in your present attempts to be good or even in your present failures.” And that’s why we just keep trying. Yay God for being patient with us. Thank you for second and third and fourth tries. Thank you for not discarding us when we don’t get it right even then.

After-After: “Christ does not want nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible.” CT Studd.



2 responses

28 04 2010

Benedictines, Hutterites.(Monastic, communal.) We house share with another Anglican priest. Most everything is “hers” although she has gifted us with a bed and a kitchen table, ours to take when we get moved elsewhere. In exchange, I cook, clean, babysit and generally manage the day to day stuff. We are aware of what will get divided when we have to split the household, but even that seems fluid. We share running errands and fixing things. We read each other’s books and use each other’s cookware. This was an Acts 4 decision, and so far, it has been a great blessing all round. I would do it again, but only with another Christian. We’ve houseshared with other Christians before, and mostly it was good.

28 04 2010

That’s a great comment. Thank you! I think I could have added, too, that we have lost connection even with our own families. Even extended family (in most caucasian families) can’t bear to live with one another (or it isn’t possible to do so). We have had our mother living with us for 13 years and it has been the best decision we ever made. We have all benefitted from this shared living situation. It isn’t always simple — 3 adults in a home and figuring that out — but it has been worth sorting it out along the way. Thanks so much for challenging me with your comment.

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