As I explored last week, American society does not encourage mutual support. The multiple rules and regulations which govern our social fabric make it more difficult for us to live as the first Christians did, distributing our abundance as gifts to the entire community and having “all things in common” (see Acts 2:44–46). Yet the church can work to set a different standard and model other ways of living in community. Here are a couple of examples of how this can happen.
First, a personal story. We can model abundance in the small-group conversations we have around our tables, in church and elsewhere. At church a couple weeks ago, I shared a table with a newcomer to the community and a native Tucsonan. The newcomer asked what I did for work, so I gave her my card and explained some of what I do. She asked how a writer coach functioned, so I explained. The Tucsonan then asked if I worked with fiction writers. Further discussion revealed that he writes both fiction and nonfiction (which I did not know) but gets stuck at a certain point in his fiction stories. I suggested some methods he might try for moving forward. He left our table excited and grateful for a gift, freely given, which hopefully will have an impact on his own life and livelihood.
Many in America would say that I should not have given away my coaching expertise for free. However, I would argue that generosity begets generosity—as happened for the earliest Christians. I happen to have a wealth of gifts to offer, fruit of my years of work—and also of my God-created intellect. Why should I not share those gifts with people in need?
I’m not just talking about sharing spiritual gifts, either. At the beloved community conversation I shared about last week, one example of mutuality that was mentioned involved Jubilee Baptist Church in North Carolina. They looked at their community and its needs and developed a Debt Collective. As they explain it:
What if there was a community that didn’t respond to debt with shame, but that said “God told us we should forgive debtors,” that was committed to “holding all things in common” (Acts 2:44), that desired to “owe one another nothing but love” (Romans 13:8)?
Every month, they give out a Debt Liberation Grant during Sunday worship. There are no requirements for applying besides indebtedness. They also have Mutual Aid Teams that support a process for individuals to make payments on each other’s debts. (Perhaps this is one solution to our church leaders’ school debt….)
Does this blow your mind? It blew mine—and yet, shouldn’t the church community be thinking beyond cultural norms and stereotypes? Shouldn’t we, as Jesus declared, be “in the world, but not of it” (John 17:16)?
What creative solutions to real-life problems can you imagine—perhaps through prayer—for members of your spiritual community?