Attempts to live together in community have been wrought with challenge and fraught with difficulty for centuries. If it were easy, everybody would probably live communally, given man's social nature. There would be no need to figure out a better way. Today a whole movement of people live together intentionally, banding together around a goal, an ideal, or a preconceived concept of community. For example, some want to live in a way that's more environmentally sound in order to preserve the earth. Others hope to land among like-minded thinkers and doers, enhancing their chances to secure a permanent place to belong, one that doesn’t disintegrate or explode. Usually reality doesn’t measure up and people move on or give up.
Many here and around the world wonder why communities fail. It seems that if people live in community long enough to go from one generation to the next, their vision and purpose fades, often into virtual nonexistence or passivity. Individuals opt for comfort, a higher standard of living, or the pull of the larger society. Recently record numbers of people have begun to participate in the Internet computer network. Will cyberspace become the community of the future?
It seems that no matter how hard people try, they are eventually undermined by society at large, sinking down to the popular culture, overtaken and conformed to slow death in the status quo. Often religious communities which began as a radical renewal of Christianity either fall apart from internal strife or eventually become accepted as denominations within the mainstream.
There was one community, however, that was distinct from all the rest because the people who formed it didn’t live together for any reason familiar to communitarians. It was the early church that started in Jerusalem in 30 CE. This community was a response to the life, death, and resurrection of a Man who was known as Yahshua ha Mashiyach. He exhibited a remarkable life of love, constantly giving Himself up for others. Through His teachings, Yahshua established a whole new way of living, proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was in their midst. His sacrifice for the sins of the whole world was the basis to establish this unique new kingdom — one spoken about by the prophets long ago. On the Day of Pentecost some 3000 individuals responded to the gospel. They were the people who knew they needed to be forgiven for the things they had done and how they had lived. A community began when these people were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, responding to the radical message of the Master's love for them. His love consumed them. They wanted to stay together and abide in the midst of it. None wanted to return to the lives they had known. They had found the truth, the way to actually demonstrate love for one another.
These disciples didn’t have a concept of community that brought them together, but only responded to Messiah's love and forgiveness, which He demonstrated by His death on the cross. As a result, they actually followed His teachings, radically changing how they treated one another. This was the foundation of their community, an entirely new way of life based on Him. It started in Jerusalem in 30 CE — people actually living together and loving one another. They had the power to give up their own ambitions, desires, and possessions and to love in the same way their Master had loved them.
Yahshua the Messiah was their absolute ruler. Individuals made Him preeminent in their lives every day. They relinquished jobs, homes, fortunes, and families to follow Him totally. Close relationships were not an automatic result but had to be cultivated as the labor of love. Love was their motivation, and they painstakingly cared for one another. Putting others first and being devoted to kindness allowed them to grow on that one foundation of love. The goal of the apostles as they traveled about, building up the disciples, was to bring about fully-developed communities where disciples related to one another with the love that Yahshua demonstrated when He walked on the earth.
Every day the apostles taught them how to walk in forgiveness and to actually confess their wrong ways as sin. Daily, each disciple would put it into practice and he would help others stay on course. Obedience was everything. They had a fervent and burning love for their Master Yahshua, thankful that their sins had been forgiven and that they could learn to walk like He did. The Spirit they received caused them to forgive one another every day for the offenses they committed. Their constant and humble confessions enabled them to live in unity.
This new community was a spontaneous response to the love of Yahshua that was shown to them. They experienced forgiveness in their souls and they liked it. They felt the cleansing effect of confessing and forsaking their sins, both in their own heart and also from their brothers and sisters with whom they lived. It was this powerful demonstration of love and forgiveness that enabled them to live together in unity. The love and care they showed each other proved that they actually possessed the life of the Son of God and were building on His foundation. The world had never seen anything like it and has never seen anything like it since — to our great poverty.
But this first church community, as well as others like it, failed in a relatively short period of time. What happened? Why did it fail? It was not due to political, social, or cultural reasons, or even because of persecution. This original community failed because these people stopped loving one another. The reason they stopped loving one another is because they stopped receiving and experiencing forgiveness. They stopped receiving and experiencing forgiveness because they stopped confessing and forsaking their sins in obedience to His commands.
The root cause of the fall of the early church, then, was that they stopped forsaking their sin and therefore stopped experiencing forgiveness. It was this forgiveness that caused them to love and praise their Master Yahshua. Without sincere daily confession, they could not experience forgiveness and therefore, lost their ability to forgive each other and to give thanks to their God from the heart. Without forgiving one another, they grew bitter, so their love died. And when it died, there was nothing left to hold them together but mere form.
The early church, therefore, did not fall from its foundation because of persecution from Rome, but because the disciples stopped confessing their sins. Recognizing, acknowledging, and confessing sins according to God's standard is indispensable for true love to rule. Once the first community failed, there never has been another that expressed such dynamic and spontaneous love with such incredible power to forgive. The unity that was exhibited in this phenomenal new life had begun to turn the world upside down before seeds of decay set in. They started to follow their own eroded standards instead of being faithful to obey His standard and repent when they failed. This produced strife, jealousy, selfishness, greed, divisions and disunity among them. Today we have countless denominations, all supposedly founded on the Rock.
The answer to the failure of community is to come back to the source of the life that the early church in Jerusalem knew — to return to the foundation and live according to the pattern of life that those early disciples experienced. We don’t need new religions, new methods, or more new concepts. Better intellectual understanding won’t help. We just need to come back to the foundation that worked. What mankind needs for true community is to be restored back to the life of our Master Yahshua, and to do what He said to do. From that life, true community inevitably results where love is the answer.
What the world needs to see is a demonstration of the kind of love that gives itself up for one another, being perfected in unity through the power of God's Spirit in people. Individuals able to live together in harmony will be proof of God's love, not divided or separated by differences of opinion, hurts, or things that can’t be forgiven. These barriers in men's souls have reduced the reality of community to pockets of intentional groups, where only birds of the same feather can flock together. But the prophet Ezekiel promised a tree where birds of every kind will nest.1
No amount of mere self-effort can ever produce such a tree. It takes the literal power of God. Its essential source is the power of forgiveness released by the blood of our Master. He enables us to obey, not just in thought, but in deed as well. He poured His life out for all of mankind because of His deep love for us. The world will know that God's love is undeniable when a community of those who believe in Him demonstrate a life together of such magnitude and intensity that it fills the earth. Until a life of love that's perfected in unity has such a profound effect, having a community doesn’t mean much, except as an alternative means of mere survival.
We ought to have no other goal or measure of accomplishment than to be restored to how man was created to live and relate to one another. Only by making Messiah preeminent in all things and becoming like Him by the transforming power of His Spirit can this witness happen. Any other goal of community is futile and will ultimately end in compromise.
Communities that struggle to survive and flourish through mere self-effort will only repeat the sad lessons that history reveals of man's failed attempts.
How will this restoration come about and what can we expect as we approach the 21st century? The prophet Daniel spoke long ago about this time that we live in. He said that in the day when you see ten kings emerging as a confederation of leaders and rulers, the God of heaven is going to raise up a kingdom.2 There is going to be a reemergence of the new social order that was begun in the early church. Since the God of heaven is going to accomplish this in the days of those ten kings, anyone who is a part of that final kingdom must come out of every religious or Christian community or movement that began before the days of those ten kings — or be disqualified.3
Daniel said that this kingdom, this new social order, is going to materialize on the earth as a stone being cut out of the mountain of the existing social order. It will not be created by human hands.4 Self-effort cannot succeed. This stone kingdom will have such a radically different quality of life — a proven life of true unity — that it will, by contrast, expose the corruption of the existing world order. It will be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 49:5,6,17. This life of love and unity is going to judge and bring to an end greed, poverty, injustice, and false religion. Everything that is bringing this present world order to destruction will perish. That stone kingdom is going to be a demonstration of the life of the age to come. It will bring an end to the existing social order and it will fill the whole earth.5
We believe that we are living in those days. In a world that is rapidly shrinking, the global mind and economy that is emerging is setting the stage for this ruling federation. Its beginning is reflected in Europe with the emergence of the European Economic Community. For this reason we believe that we live in the time that Daniel spoke of, a time in which we are beginning to see the restoration of all things. The life of the first community that fell away so many centuries ago is reemerging. It is giving birth to an actual community — one which will bring to completion in the 21st century what the early church began in the first century. This renaissance will usher in a kingdom of peace on earth at the return of our Master Yahshua. For such a community to accomplish this goal, it must be founded and established in His true love.