Imagine Paradise

Community Living

It's Out There Somewhere

Imagine paradise. Do you imagine beautiful natural surroundings, lush valleys and tall mountains; or do you imagine people living in peace and true friendship. Imagine a humanity totally freed from selfishness, deceit and hatred. Imagine being able to trust everyone, feeling free to go and talk to anyone. If you can imagine that then you get a glimpse of how God intended us to live. How would we choose to live in a paradise like that ? Would we all live in separate boxes, with separate lives and separate possessions ? One of the greatest tragedies of modern society is isolation. We build ourselves great cities, wonders undreamed of by our ancestors, housing millions of people. Yet amidst that thronging humanity, a huge proportion of people are lonely.

Within all of us is this longing for freedom and a longing for a fulfilment of who we are. We know instinctively that the world is not right the way it is, that's not hard to tell with war and vast human suffering only the click of television remote away ! Even more than that though, is the fact that we only live at half our potential - if that, that what we could do and be has to be bottled up. Life is too dangerous to be able to trust the vast hordes of people who surround us, we have to spend most of our life with the defences up and the rest of the time trying to learn to bring them down.

The culture of the worlds system is competition. Competition economically and socially, sink or swim. Jesus came to establish a new culture - the New Testament calls it the 'New Creation'. Its a culture where love and giving are the ruling forces, a complete opposite - in violent opposition - to the culture of the world. This new culture has social equality right at its heart - that everyone is equal. That means the culture of New Creation can only be really present if you are creating social equality. Just talking about it or saying "it's in my heart" isn't enough if it doesn't affect the way you live. John Wesley said - the last part of a man to find conversion is his wallet ! Jesus has much to say on the subject too - 'go, sell all you have' sound familiar ? Community is the logical extension of these principles, creating a society where people really can be equal. It works not because of law but because people are motivated by a genuine love. But isn't it weird ?

We grow up accustomed to the way we live. Surrounded by it, living it, it becomes normal - anything different is odd, unusual even weird. That is true for the nomads in the Sahara, the middle class of England and the street children of Brazil. To themselves they are the normal ones and everyone else is weird. Obviously this is just as true for the culture we live in as any other. The idea of sharing your possessions and life with several people may sound extremely weird - but weird by whose standards, by a culture that has existed only fleetingly and is shared by a small proportion of the planets population ? Will we let today's fashions dictate the way we live ?

The human soul is most fulfilled when it is expressing itself, when it is fully known, with deep trusting relationships - but most of all where it is giving. In fact this is the key - that freedom, that strength, can only be found by being in a situation where we are able to give. Where we live like this we find real brotherhood. Here what is important isn't money, isn't career or possessions or fashion but a genuine care for each other. Its very healing and great fun ! The best way to do this is all the time, live it for real, work through the difficulties - and that means community.

Of course community is an ideal. The ideal of the best way for people to share their lives, to break the walls that divide them and to break the grip that possessions have on their lives. The ideal of community is the ideal of humanity. You can't have the ideal of humanity without having community as your conclusion. If you imagine that paradise we mentioned earlier we wouldn't live separate lives - shut off from our fellow man. People are at their best with many close relationships where they can share anything. Equality, social justice and true brotherhood can all come about in a meaningful way.

However, as with many ideals we need to check the reality ! People don't always get on, they have relationship tensions. There are various practical issues, people need space, if you're going to run a 'common purse' system do you trust the person holding the purse strings and so on..... but the real question is can people really get on together living that close ? Well, if not Christianity fails. If its not possible to love your neighbour as yourself then Christianity is a fraud. If it is possible, then oughtn't we to do it ? Well its certainly not trouble free.

There's a saying in our community. If you love community you'll destroy it, if you love people you'll build it ! Community is full of imperfection and difficulty. The only way to remove the imperfection is to remove the people. BUT as we work through the difficulties, the relationship tensions, the getting on with people you wouldn't normally like, we are changed. In the process you are faced up to your own intolerance, your own selfishness, your own self-righteousness and you either change or leave ! If you stick it out you become a more relaxed, more secure person and with a greater ability to help others. The ideal remains, held in your heart - the pearl of great price Christ called it, worth selling everything else for. It won't always be like that, heck most of the time it won't - it can be damn hard to really face yourself like that, but if its not worth fighting for - then what is ?

Morden Christian Community is practised by the New Creation Christian Community in the UK. We have around 600 people living as part of the common purse in around 70 different houses. NCCC is part of the Jesus Fellowship, which is also known as the Jesus Army. We are a charismatic, evangelical church - with around 2000 members.

Written May 2003.

In theory the practise should be the same as the theory. In practise it isn`t.

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Last edited Sun Oct 01 20:14:44 2006.