Pilgrim 2 001

“… There is yet a time of rest in store for the world, when mastery has changed into fellowship – but not before.”

                                    — William Morris, News from Nowhere.

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Foundational to the American doctrine of rights is the concept of equality.  As Jefferson has it in The Declaration of Independence:  “All men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

This is a purely political statement which has nothing to do with reality.

It should be perfectly obvious to even the most obtuse among us that all men are not created equal – that is to say, the same.  The “equality” envisioned in this time-honored, all-hallowed, never-to-be-questioned assertion is simply “equality before the law.”  One might even go so far as to call it a legal fiction.

Legal fictions, of course, are matters of little or no consequence to the Pilgrim.  That’s because the Pilgrim, as a stranger and sojourner in the kosmos, cares nothing about politics and law.  He takes his cues from another quarter altogether.

The purpose of equality before the law isn’t difficult to discern.  It’s a protective measure:  a defensive weapon to be used against enemies who seek to gain mastery over me and promote their agenda and interests at my expense.  It’s the hill on which I take my stand against hostility and aggression, the barricade behind which I hide in my attempts to fight off your ill-willed efforts to demean, enslave, or impoverish me.  “Step off!” it says.  “Get back!  Keep your hands off me and my stuff!  I’m every bit as good as you are!”  We cling to this doctrine of equality primarily out of fear.  We need it desperately because we operate on the assumption that ours is a world in which everybody is constantly trying to dominate everybody else.   Unfortunately, it’s a pretty fair assessment of the situation.

But the Pilgrim, as we have said, wants no part of all this.  He does not belong to the kosmos.  On the contrary, he lives his life as part of a community that operates on the basis of a very different set of rules and assumptions.  It’s a community made up of refugees and foreigners, people from another place and time, tramps and travelers encamped in the middle of an alien society who, in spite of adversity and criticism, continue to speak a different language and cling to the tenets of a different culture.  They are a colony, an embassy, a rebel outpost in occupied territory.  And within the context of this strange outlandish sub-culture they have no need for “equality.”  They have no need of it for the simple reason that they have no interest in dominating or mastering one another.  Instead of the law of “equal rights,” Pilgrims live by the rule of koinonia.

Koinonia means “sharing.”  It’s the state of “holding something in common.”   The Greek word is most frequently translated into English as “fellowship” – though, if it weren’t for negative historical, political, and social baggage, we might possibly understand it as referring to a form of voluntary “communism.”[1]  The basic idea here is summed up in the New Testament’s teaching that, in Christ, “we are members of one another” – parts of the same body – so that what affects and concerns you affects and concerns me.  Most importantly, koinonia takes it for granted that we are not all “equal” or alike – no more than a hand is like an eye or a head like a foot.  This is the assumption upon which it operates.  In koinonia we supplement, complement, fill up, and balance one another’s strengths and weaknesses.  You supply what is lacking in me.  I supply what is lacking in you.

“Bear one another’s burdens,” writes Paul, chief of sinners and Pilgrims, in his letter to the Galatians.  In another place, he says, “We who are strong ought to bear with the weak, and not to please ourselves.”  There is no question here of competition, no room for domination.  In the words of the Master Himself, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.”

All men are created equal.  When you stop and think about it for a moment, this well-worn axiom begins to ring with near-Huxleyan overtones.  It’s the law of survival in the jungle of the kosmos:  a cold, impersonal rule calculated to ensure the peace, prosperity, and happiness of the Brave New World.  And so, perhaps, it must remain until the kosmos is no more.

As for the Pilgrim, he has ceased from all such strife, for he lives in a kingdom where the first are last and the last first, and where every member lives and thrives by lending to and leaning upon every other.

It’s a vision of an entirely different order.




[1] It’s not without reason that the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer labeled Marxism “a Christian heresy.”  Pure Marxism is essentially a vision of Christian koinonia without Christian inspiration or motivation – in other words, without Christ Himself.  It’s no coincidence that there is such a striking resemblance in wording between Acts 2:44, 45 – “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” – and the most famous of the early communist slogans – “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” See also Acts 4:32-35.



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