The earliest Christians were “common-ists.” No, not communists — not modern atheistic Marxists — but followers of Jesus who sought to practice his teachings by sharing “everything in common." They would sell their property and possessions to give to anyone who had need… No one claimed private ownership of any of their possessions, but everything they owned was held in common” (Acts 2:44,45; 4:23).
One reason Christian believers in Jerusalem could observe so communal and socialistic a practice was their conviction that the return of Jesus was going to take place within a very short time, bringing the blessings of God’s Kingdom to all the earth. As the years wore on, however, and Jesus’ immediate return failed to materialize, churches founded in Asia Minor, Greece and Italy relaxed such stringent requirements for membership.
Still, as late as a quarter century after Jesus’ crucifixion, the Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Corinth, could assure them that “the present form of the world is passing away” and the return of Jesus was now so very near, he said, that they might want to consider abstaining from sex within marriage and even from marrying itself (!) in order to prepare themselves spiritually for Jesus’ imminent return. (1st Corinthians chapter 7; Paul’s certainty about the nearness of Jesus’ return can probably be attributed to a statement by Jesus that not all his original followers would die before he came back: Mark 9:1; compare Matthew 16:28).
Of course, Jesus could be exceedingly demanding and envisioned an imminent godly Kingdom on earth in which there would be neither wealth nor poverty (Luke 6:20-26) and in which no one would attempt to rule over or take advantage of others, but all would strive toward being loving servants, even slaves, of one another, as he himself felt tasked to be, even to the point of dying for the sake of the vast “many” (Mark 10:42-45; Isaiah 53:11-12).
In the political turmoil of today, it is regrettable that so many who claim allegiance to Jesus adamantly oppose any form of “common-ism,” even when practiced by democratic societies. It is disheartening to have to admit that several nations in our world today are far more responsive to Jesus’ communal teachings than are many American politicians who seem hell-bent on creating a government dedicated to pursuing the selfish greed they wish to impose on all the rest of us.
Boswell, a retired pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) living in Normal, may be reached through Jesus Laid Bare at youtube.com.