by John Howard Yoder, Herald Press, 1992.
Find this book here.
This is one of Yoder’s most well known works wherein he outlines five practices for Christian communities. These set church (body of Christ) apart from other groups and organizations as they represent a unique way of being, a new reality.
The first is the practice of binding and loosing. Yoder emphasizes that the work of God done in this world happens through God’s people, the church. The second is the breaking of bread which happens whenever we share a meal together. This is not only a statement of faith, but it’s a socio-economic practice, levelling the playing field for all.
The third practice is baptism which gives us our new identity, taking down barriers between us. It’s the adoption into the new family of God. The fourth is the fullness of Christ, who is the head of the body. He gives gifts and purpose to each member. And lastly, the rule of Paul outlines how group gatherings should take place. The main element here is that everyone must have a chance to share and be heard.
These practices, in Christian community, are only possible because of Jesus Christ who shows us how to live in Him.
Yoder does a good job of explaining and inspiring this view of community. Although quite short, this is a dense book that may require several reads to fully understand what Yoder is getting at. And of course, whenever I read Yoder now, I can never get away from his past. It's hard to hold that in tandem with his teaching.
“The Christian Community, like any community held together by commitments to important values, is a political reality.” (viii)
“To be human is to have differences; to be human wholesomely is to process those differences, not by building up conflicting power claims but by reconciling dialogue.” (p.8)
“…bread is daily sustenance. Bread eaten together is economic sharing. Not merely symbolically, but also in fact, eating together extends to a wider circle the economic solidarity normally obtained in the family.” (p.20)
“Baptism introduces or initiates persons into a new people. The distinguishing mark of this people is that all prior given or chosen identity definitions are transcended.” (p.28)
“If reconciliation between peoples and cultures is not happening, the Gospel’s truth is not being confirmed in that place.” (p.38)
“There are as many ministerial roles as there are members of the body of Christ, and that means that more than half of them belong to women.” (p.60)
“Until everyone with something to say has had the floor and until those who care have talked themselves out, the Spirit’s will is not clearly known.” (p.68)