Monday, September 12, 2011

The Second Mark

The 12 marks of New Monasticism are simply 12 principles that have resurfaced in Christian communities throughout church history.

In the coming weeks, I plan to highlight each of these 12 marks, briefly explain them, and explore their significance in relation to the Mulberry House.

1) Relocation to the abandoned places of the Empire.

2) Sharing Economic Resources with Fellow Community Members and the Needy Among Us.

"When we truly discover love, capitalism will not be possible and Marxism will not be necessary."


God blesses us, we bless others. This is basic Christianity, Discipleship 101. In fact, it is one of the first things we teach our children as they begin interacting with others (Hey, you! Stop hoarding all the Legos).

When I spoke at a church recently, I told stories about the months I'd spent living in Springfield, long before we had acquired the Mulberry house. I told the church about this bizarre way of living I had experienced, a way that went against everything my suburban value system had taught me. There in the 'hood, we had shared.

For example, we had a community lawnmower. The entire block had chipped in to pay for one mower. It was kept in a central location and whenever someone needed to mow their lawn, they could make use of the mower. The same was true for doing laundry. I lived in a duplex where my neighbor had a key to my place. He'd let himself in to do laundry, cook, or make use of appliance he did not have in his house.

The idea of giving someone else full access to "my" stuff makes many others shudder, but to be honest, I found this style of living quite natural and even refreshing. (This idea of "mine" is prevalent in many suburban communities. If your child finds a tricycle on the sidewalk in the inner-city, it may be perfectly acceptable for them to ride it for the afternoon before returning it to its place for communal use. This same action in the suburbs might get you accusations of theft.)

Well, many of us are trying to rediscover the idea of sharing our possessions with others. There is a lot to be said on this topic, and I would love to tell all kinds of stories, but very briefly, here's what we're driving at:

a) Beyond Brokerage- In the book put out by Rutba House, Shane Claiborne wrote the chapter devoted to the second mark. Shane's a neat guy with some helpful ideas and he suggests that many churches have become brokers of resources. He points out that many churches love the idea of helping the poor. A survey showed that 80% of Christians agreed that helping the poor is important, yet only 1% of those polled reported actually spending time among poor people. Sadly, churches become places where poor people come to get stuff and rich people come to drop stuff off.

Rather than simply becoming an agency, or a storehouse of food, clothing, and other resources to be distributed, we want to form relationships with the needy around us. Not only will we be able to bless them in their time of need, but we can be blessed by them as we spend time with them, learn from them, and receive the gifts they have to offer us.

b) Theology of Enough- If you have 2 coats, 1 of them belongs to the poor.

When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, God fed them by dropping bread from the sky. He told them, "Take only enough for yourselves for one day. I will provide for you." Rather than stockpiling and hoarding resources, we want to seek simplicity, taking enough to meet our needs but not being excessive.

"Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?'" (Proverbs 30:8-9).

c) Redistribution- Yes, we want to spread the wealth.

In the chapter, Shane notes that redistribution of wealth is not a prescription for society meaning that it should be mandated; it is a description of society when people discover what it means to love. Look at Acts 4:32: when the followers of Jesus were unified in love, they held everything in common so that there were no needy persons among them.

When 80% of the world's resources are controlled by 20% of the world's population, we must ask whether we find ourselves situated among the privileged few.

d) Biblical economics- "Sell everything you have and give it to the poor."

"If anyone has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need, and he does not care for them, how can he say the love of the Father is in Him?"

"There shall be no needy persons among you."

Jesus never excluded rich people, but He did let them know that following Him meant trading decadence and wealth for hospitality, generosity, and service. We'd like to rediscover this notion.

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