God gave me the privilege of working in the Gypsy culture for about four years when I served as a missionary in Hungary. I didn’t understand at the time how significant an opportunity I had until I became deeper involved.
Gypsies are rarely open to “outsiders” infiltrating their way of life and culture, and so my time there was unique. The more I learned about them, the more my heart broke for them. There were many things hard about being a Gypsy, and even harder being a Christian Gypsy. But there was one thing intrinsic in the Gypsy way of thinking that could only be described as Christ-like.
The Gypsy homes rarely have gates or fences, which is rare in Europe. They rarely have doors. Doorways were usually covered with some sort of fabric. And everything they possess is not purchased or earned with the thought of meeting the needs of only their own family, but their entire extended family, the clan. Fences and doors were perceived as something that would prevent access to their homes and though they had them, they were never shut.
It used to bug me that my Gypsy partners were hard workers, faithfully working long days to earn every bit they had, while lazy siblings would come and take what they wanted from their closets and cupboards, and even ask for financial emergencies like car repairs, etc.
I knew it put a huge financial burden on those brothers that worked, but they never showed any resistance, any conflict, or any push back to their requests. In fact, with anything that was visible, the brothers didn’t even have to ask. The working brother wives would go shopping at the store expecting that whatever was on their shelves was theirs for the taking by any of the family.
It was hard for me to imagine that being fair, in fact it made me quite upset. But during a quiet time, at some point during this period, I was studying Acts and it hit me. Perhaps, in the midst of this pagan culture, there was a hint of one of the most “Christian” philosophies in the Bible.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:32-33 KJV
Luke picked up on a group of Believers that were onto something. What if, as Believers, we saw not just our own need, but the needs of others who believe. What if we saw the fruit of our labor not only as the means for getting what we alone need, but the whole group of us, coming together, unified.
Not everyone bought into that group, but those that did lacked for nothing and probably lived a similar “equitable” lifestyle. Likely some benefitted more than others, and others stood to lose more than others. It seems like an inequitable situation unless somehow Believers could fully grasp the concept that what we have is not our own, will not last, and has no bearing on making us fulfilled.
It’s hard to imagine this philosophy working at first glance. How can any group of people be “one” in anything? But a deeper study of the areas that they were one in helps.
First, they were “one in heart.” Heart is perceived in Biblical terms as the innermost central organ of the body. It is where feelings, emotions, desires, and passions dwell. To be unified in heart means that what’s truly important in life, in this case, a commitment to God first and foremost, would make it easy to care for others, exactly like yourself. This issue of being “one in heart” with other Believers is easy when you are one with Christ.
Secondly, they were “one in soul.” This word, quite a bit more complicated to dissect, literally, because it is so closely related to the heart. Similar in meaning, sometimes used synonymously in Greek literature, perhaps has one distinct usage in that it also carries with it an element of strength of the will. Meaning not only were they unified in heart, but they were passionately unified about carrying out how it told them to live.
Notice, thirdly. Actually, there is no mention of a third. Imagining a group of Believers, anywhere in the world who could espouse to such a closeness and narrow focus on lifestyle is hard for me. People, even Christians have a hard time agreeing. That’s why I include what I believe to be the exclusion of this third critical point… “one-minded.” No mention of it here. Maybe it isn’t needed.
Perhaps being of “one-mind” isn’t necessary to be one in heart and one in soul. Maybe it’s ok to have an opinion, different from the group. And perhaps it is entirely possible to become one in such an intimate way with other Believers, even with our differences of opinion. If we could keep our eyes focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, likely every area of our lives would be changed, different for the better.
Maybe that’s exactly what we need in this day and age, to go against the grain of culture and let the culture of the world see something different in the way we do life. Perhaps one day our gates can be open and our full cupboards left open.
Dr. Ronald J. Barnes Jr.
President / CEO
February 14, 2022