The Community Utopians Dream Of
When Sir Thomas More’s Utopia hit the shelves in the early 16th century, Erasmus suggested to a friend that if he “wished to see the true source of all political evils,” he should read it.
A work clearly inspired by Plato’s Republic and likely Plutarch’s account of Spartan life under Lycurgus, More was searching for pure justice in the community of mankind.
Interestingly, for his title he coined the term Utopia from the Greek compound of ουκ and τοπος, meaning “no place.”
Such has been the pursuit–and the conclusion–of mankind throughout the ages—to discover the perfect community whose end is justice which does not exist in reality.
A Unique Community
In Jesus’ earthly ministry, he established a unique community within the greater human community, one with a unique ethos as well as a unique purpose (Mark 3:13-19; Matthew 16:13-20; Acts 2:42-47).
Although, in a certain sense, this community existed before Jesus, his redemptive work of dying on a cross and resurrecting three days after, forever changed the landscape of human relationships by inaugurating—not just theorizing about—this special community.
In the Scriptures, the New Testament writers describe Jesus’ community as analogous to a body (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Ephesians 4:11-16), to a family (Ephesians 2:11-22), to a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-5), and to a new people group [chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation] (1 Peter 2:9-10).
Each of these metaphors reflects something of a whole interconnected and united by the communion of individual parts. They also highlight the idea that essential to the community’s health and perpetuity is a harmony and interdependence that is organic and innate in its members.
Both Universal and Local
Jesus’ community is both universal and localized. In its universal sense, it is a multi-generational (unbounded by time), multi-ethnical (unbounded by race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status), and multi-dimensional (unbounded by either the physical or the metaphysical) kingdom of committed disciples.
In its localized sense, it is visible and organized around a confessional covenant. These covenant communities gather together in various places throughout the world to worship God (exalt Jesus), serve each another (edify one another), and love their extended community (evangelize the world).
In addition to its unique purpose, Jesus’ community has a unique ethos, part of which is marked by the Greek word αλλελον (allelon). More than 100 times in the Scriptures, this word, translated into various forms of “one another,” is used to exhort Jesus’ covenant community to always strive toward harmony and interdependence.
Members of Jesus’ community are admonished to have fellowship with one another (1 John 1-10), to welcome (accept) one another (Romans 14:1-4; 15:1-7), to forbear one another (Ephesians 4:1-7), to forgive one another (Ephesians 4:31-32) to bear with one another (Galatians 6:1-5), to care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:12-26), to comfort (encourage) one another (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), to edify (build up) one another (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11), to greet one another (1 Corinthians 16:19-20; 2 Corinthians 13:11-14), to honor one another (Romans 12:9-21), to use hospitality with one another (1 peter 4:1-11), and above all to love one another (John 13:31–35).
At a cursory look, this is a community, it would seem, no one would want to be excluded from–the kind Utopians only dream of.
About Scott Postma
Scott lives in North Idaho collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. He shares valuable tips on writing and teaching, rich insights into theology and literature, and meaningful perspective on living a life of significance. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.