I thought I would just recap what we have been talking about for the past two weeks before we move into our practical discussion this week of what it was like to actually be a Christian idealist.
Remember that Christian idealism is not naïvely hopeful or ultimately pessimistic. The Christian is going to work towards the way things ought to be. The Christian is going to apply a Christian worldview for the benefit of society in all areas of life from the personal to the societal levels. This is the idealism at play.
Christianity also provides a dose of realism in that our world is a fallen place. Because of human sinfulness, the world is imperfect, and it is never going to be perfect until we have a new heaven and a new earth. However, there is that undying hope for the future that we have a God who is going to make everything right.
The book of Acts might be my favorite book of the Bible, and we get an example of this kind of Christian idealism from the way that they worked right from the beginning.
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And Godʼs grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostlesʼ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (Acts 4:32-35, NIV).
Far from supporting a model of governmentally imposed socialism as these passages are constantly twisted into, what we see here is a model of the church exercising true charity and brotherly love. They were willing to freely sacrifice their own possessions for the betterment of other people. They were applying what they believe to helping those around them.
Did everyone sell everything they had? The passage doesn’t seem to bear that out, but from time to time, there were those who made a free choice to do so and help out the community. This is a picture of charity, not governmental imposition. Please don’t confuse the two.
Beyond that though, you have to notice the idealism in this passage. These people were committed to brotherly love, and their actions played that out in their lives. Keep in mind the greater context of this passage. In all of the surrounding chapters, we see all kinds of church persecution.
It was obvious that the world was far from perfect, but the early church did not stop following their convictions. They didn’t stop living out their faith.
Rather, they did what they could to improve the lives of people around them despite the obvious truth that there were bad things happening that were beyond their control.
Again, I argued that Christians experience a type of tension between realism and optimism. This week, I’m going to try to break out some modern illustrations of how this can work in real life.