02 October 2022
How much? Just how different are we supposed to be? And in what ways?
It's not for me to say on this blog. Rather, the point here is that we have yet to explore just how different we should be from the society in which we live today. We should be very different. That's what the Covenant says; don't be like the pagans around you.
But there's a prophetic element, too: Until the Lord allows us to form substantial covenant communities, it would be inappropriate to push too hard on that. Right now, we need to focus on having a witness to His glory in the society so that we can lay the foundation for building such a covenant community.
I've already outlined some things that we should do to produce a separation that would witness to the Covenant. The idea was to point out where the path is so you can explore it yourself.
But what do I envision for my own future community where I live?
The most obvious things people might notice would be conservative clothing without a uniform. I rather like the suggestion made by several that we should require folks be covered at a minimum from neck to knees and shoulder to shoulder, male and female, and not too form fitting. I can say long hair for females and short hair for males, but that requires defining "long" and "short" for that purpose. I think it's somewhat contextual. And I'd rather not have any peculiar speech pattern or vocabulary, no phrases with heavily invested meanings, but we should be careful how we talk. We should avoid some words as they are commonly used.
More important is that we don't portray typical attitudes about our fellow humans.
You shouldn't read too much into my choice of Bible translation. There are some I really don't like, but it's mostly a matter that I went to school with the NASB and I don't care for the more recent editions. I like the NKJV, and I really wish the folks who gave us the NET Bible wouldn't be so consistent in choosing the most dubious variations in their text. I'm really disappointed how that one turned out, because it's otherwise very solid translation work. I'm not much of a partisan about that whole question, though. A pastor should be able to write his own translation at times.
Where the differences should be really strong is in things like childhood education. I've worked in public schools; they were awful 20 years ago, and they are worse now. I know how hard it can be to homeschool, so I don't demand that right now, though I strongly encourage it. As soon as you can set up a homeschool coop in your community, it won't be too early. The single biggest disaster for Christians is tolerating the state's interest in how we raise and educate our children.
Somewhere down the road, the more we can withdraw our business dealings away from folks outside the Covenant, the better it will be for us. The stupidest thing churches do now is make rules against keeping all the business possible within the body. Americans have this perverse fear of nepotism and related tribal habits. So far as we can tell, five of the Twelve Disciples were Jesus' cousins. The Covenant of Moses was very big on promoting nepotism and insider dealing. Your business was to support the covenant community first and foremost, and whether or not you made a living was for God to handle.
That doesn't justify the corrupt practices of some religions. Jews were notorious for economically raping their own peasants, and it's still an issue today in a lot of orthodox communities. The whole idea is that you have leadership that won't be bought, and they lean hard on those who try to rip off a captive market.
Right now, most of this is aiming way off into some unseen future. During my lifetime, it would be highly improbable that a covenant community would get big enough to implement much of what I've suggested here. I'm not saying God can't do it, but that He won't do it very soon. My convictions tell me we've got way, way too far to go on the most basic things. It's a very long and hard journey away from western social habits to the biblical covenant faith life.
To be honest, if a community does start to form where I live, I'll be feeling my way along. The balance between exerting influence versus keeping folks as free as possible isn't easy to find. The religious reflexes of most people will almost certainly find me spending more time trying to rescind silly rules than setting them. I've run into that before. I'd have to pray over every precedent and invest a lot of energy in teaching how to keep things simple.
It's already become a small issue in some of the emails I get. Most people are looking for quick and clear answers. The idea is to build faith, not rules. I'm very uncomfortable with people trying to mimic what I do simply because I'm doing it. Some human activities lend themselves to that, but faith isn't one of them.
But I'll tell you this: Whomever the Lord sends my way as covenant family will be the greatest treasure I could have. I have no doubt that God has me all powered up and ready to love sacrificially whatever sort of people they are. If it isn't messy and hard work cleaning up behind at least some of them, it isn't real. When it's real, the whole point of it all is not to accomplish anything, but to simply live together in harmony. That's the job of a church.
Getting that part right would make us radically different from anything in America right now.
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