communal living

Posted: March 26th, 2010 | Filed under: life | 7 Comments »

I’m intrigued by the idea of communal living. I can’t see myself in that situation because I’m too strong willed and anti-social. I have to sift through thoughts of weird Mormons, Amish farms and suicidal alien abduction hopefuls to get to the idea behind it. Aside from the stigma of being a breeding cow, losing my music or ascending to heaven on the wing of a spaceship, I can actually see how there could be something to it. There are lots of cool people who do it and maybe it’s the gypsy blood that runs through me, but I kind of get it.

I was thinking about this for a few reasons. One of them is the frustration of watching people take scripture out of context. It happens all the time. They make it say something it’s not saying. It’s like running a puppet show where scripture is the puppet and they’re the voice of God.

So, a combination of random conversations and observations have me wondering. I think, in some cases, if you look at scripture as though it’s talking to a group of people who are living under the same roof, it might make more sense.

I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. -1 Corinthians 1:10

People are able to completely ignore others. You never have to really own up to selfishness or pride, because you can get yourself in a situation where you think you’re right. It never goes away because it’s justified and given a cozy spot to hang out. If you were under one roof, it wouldn’t be so easy. You would be forced to work things out, otherwise it would affect everybody in the house and they wouldn’t be very happy with either of you. There would be a point when they’d say, ‘it really doesn’t matter who was the most wrong, just fix it. For the sake of everybody.’

Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. -1 Thessalonians 5:13-15

For the most part, this scripture has no real life application. It’s not like we’re out working a field with heat stroked old men, mentally challenged teenagers or pregnant women. It would make more sense if we were pioneers on a wagon trail, but how often does the weakness of others actually have any affect on what you’re doing at all? We’re really good at self preservation and have set things up to work independently. If someone falls behind, then we leave them behind with that kind of, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ shrug.

You are not your own… -1 Corinthians 6:19

But you are. Aren’t you? I mean, what part of ‘you are not your own’ actually applies? There are extremes and I’m not talking about them. There are exceptions to everything. I’m talking about that straight line down the middle that most people follow. Everything is yours and you distribute as you see fit, right? Your money is yours and you pay what you choose to pay. Your time is yours and you give as you deem necessary. Your friendship, your skills,…it’s all yours. It’s not communal. As a matter of fact, the more exclusive, the more valuable.

Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does. -1 Corinthians 14:1

Does it? How? How does your life depend on love? We take care of ourselves. We work hard, enjoy the benefits and congratulate ourselves. We get bored, so we start looking out the windows of our puppet castles and make remarks about the other kingdoms. We keep notes about where someone parks, how late their lights stay on at night, how short their daughters’ shorts are, how much money they spent on their sixteen year olds’ car and how long it takes them to mow their grass. We keep a record of wrongs because their essential to our survival. We give up on people who could potentially slow us down or make us look bad. And does it matter? Really? Not in life as it’s been set up.

That’s my point. We’ve set up our lives wrong. Some people go as far as actually living under the same roof and practicing the instructions for life in the Bible in the most practical way. We don’t have to do that, but if we could make that our perspective, it might help.

Our instructions are for ‘communal’ living. Living a life in common. If you don’t have to follow the instructions, then you’re not in the right ‘kingdom’ headspace. We’re too segregated. If there is an unresolved issue between two people, you can’t move forward in life without it being resolved. We don’t resolve our issues, we ignore them, dismiss them and deny them. You can live within 20 minutes of someone who can’t stand you and never see them, so you never have to deal with it. If you lived under the same roof, you’d have to deal with it. You’d be forced to walk it out and find a way to get along and work together.

When you’re on your own, nobody is relying on you, therefore, you’re not letting anyone down. If you need help, then your loss, really. You don’t want to be a burden, you don’t want to always be the one in need, so you keep yourself at a distance and don’t contribute at all. If you were living under the same roof, you’d be given responsibilities that fit your reach. Your needs would be taken care of, because it’s not a ‘his’, ‘hers’, ‘mine’, ‘theirs’ mentality. It’s ‘ours’ and you’re part of ‘us’.

I don’t see myself living under the same roof as a few other families, but I can extract the Biblical perspective from the mentality. Just imagine that you have to resolve conflict and you have to view what’s ‘yours‘ as though it was just given to you to distribute according to the needs of the overall ‘family.’ Compromise, be respectful, fight to get along. Give and take without foreign obligation or guilt. In essence, we actually are supposed to be working a ‘field’, spiritually speaking. In the same way, we are ‘pioneers on a wagon trail.’

If you are in an argument with someone, then force yourselves to spend time together. Work it out. If you see someone in need, then use your reach to bring them up. If someone makes a mistake, that mistake affects everyone. Help them make it right and use grace to make it go away. They need a close friend to keep them steady, not a cold shoulder. View sin as a snake bite, grace is the antidote, crutches and patience are essential.

I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. -1 Corinthians 1:10

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. -Galatians 6:1-4

So, I want to hear your thoughts. How can you get creative with this? How many of you are going to join a commune?



7 Comments on “communal living”

  1. 1 Christina said at 11:23 am on March 26th, 2010:

    this is great! i know i have been wrestling with the notion of having roommates as i've lived alone for 2 years. and in college, we lived together, but didn't really share at all. i know that God calls us to something greater (as you've outlined above). so i think i will take the leap. i've been asked to join some women at my church and i think i will take them up on their offer. i need to get connected and plug in. and i need to learn to SHARE.


  2. 2 Tia said at 1:39 pm on March 26th, 2010:

    For a year I lived with 4 other single women and one's 8 year old son in a 3 bedroom apartment. Of course I like having my own space and peace when I want it, but I do miss the fellowship. For as much as there was conflict there was also love and laughter. Always a new outfit to borrow 🙂 Each week we drew names and had to spend time with that person during the week which was a good time to work out any issues. Now that I'm on my own… I can still seek others out on a weekly basis to spend time with and encourage, especially if they aren't my favorite person at the time.

  3. 3 Robin Vestal said at 6:31 am on March 27th, 2010:

    I think more and more that the separated lives we live are not really what God intends for us. I have wanted for some time to open up our home to others and be able to live more in a community. It is one of life's greatest challenges to live with other people though. I have had roomates in the past and that was challenging and I know it's hard sometimes just to get along with my husband now but I do think we are called to try to build intentional community however it looks in our lives. You can not really love others while you are alone. Dealing with other people is how we get to practice love.

  4. 4 Elora said at 7:05 am on March 27th, 2010:

    LOVE this, Serena. My husband & I are actually in the process of praying/looking/preparing for living with intentional community. (This will either be with other married couples/singles in a single house or multiple houses within a specific neighborhood)

  5. 5 Lori said at 12:48 pm on March 27th, 2010:

    Serena, loved this post. We have all become so isolated within our "pods" and I don't think that is what God intended.

  6. 6 Michelle said at 6:08 pm on March 28th, 2010:

    Love this! I have always longed for this, or the Holy Spirit in me has anyway 😉

    I have been SO encouraged by your writing. I thank God for how He uses you. Thank you.

  7. 7 Serena Woods said at 6:42 pm on March 28th, 2010:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, everyone. 🙂

    If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. -Matthew 18:15

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