Contrary to the suspicion of many, God did not make commands in order to make life difficult, or to prevent us from having fun. Instead, He provide direction to protect us from hurting ourselves. These commands are "for"our good always." Frequently, we learn this the hard way by disobeying God's commands and experiencing the consequences. After doing this a few times, or after watching others suffer, we wisely learn to trust Him and follow the path that He has illiuminated for us.And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 6:24)
What does this have to do with Linux?
Linux is a rapidly progressing operating system used on many computers today, including the one that is hosting this forum. Its development is a bit of a marvel, perplexing many old-school managerial types and software developers, like Microsoft. Part of its amazing development is attributed to the attitudes and organization that support its open-source development. These features are well documented and illustrated in Eric Raymond's paper the, The Cathedral and the Bazaar. This organization has many similarities to the organization that Jesus chose for His New Testament church. Here are a few:
- autonomy - Each local church is autonomous. No church has rule or influence over another. There is no Scriptural authority for conferences which decide the direction, teaching, or practices for multiple churches. Each church is guided by their charter from Jesus, the Bible, and their desire to adhere to it. Similarly, Linux developers are largely autonomous. They are spread all over the globe, each contributing as they see fit, driven by their desire to constantly improve the OS.
- openess - Jesus' direction for His disciples is available to all. Anyone can pick up a copy of the Bible, read it, understand it, and start teaching others. No divinely sanctioned body exists by which teachers and preachers must be certified to spread the gospel. No centralized body exists which enforces a belief, creed, or understanding to all of its members. In a similar way, Linux use and development is open to all. Anybody can download a copy of Linux, install it on their computer, dive into its source code, make changes, and release their improvements to the world.
- zeal - True Christians are disciples of Jesus because they believe in Him. They passionately believe that following Him is right. They work for Him not because they have to do so, but because they want do so, and feel privileged in so doing. It is difficult to speak of a Linux user without using the word "enthusiast" in the same sentence. Many of the developers freely devote their time and energy to it, because they believe they are helping the world. It is not a job, but an opportunity to serve. Zeal is common trait to true followers in each camp.
- resistance to contamination - The distributed nature of the church makes it very difficult to introduce false teaching such that it defiles the entire church. The autonomy of the churches makes it impossible without somehow pursuading every member of every church. There are no central headquarters to defile and thereby contaminate the entire church. Similarly, Linux development resists contamination, because every distrubution of Linux picks and chooses what to include or exclude in their distrubtion. For example, if Red Hat chooses to adopt some pathetic code, users would simply migrate to SUSE, Gentoo, or some other distro.
- political isolation - Because of its autonomity and openess, the church resists top-down driven affiliation with any political party. Without appealing to every individual member of the church, politicians cannot gain the favor of the church. It's global distrubution also helps it to transcend formation of political alliances. Likewise, Linux is developed in countries ranging from Italy to the United States, Germany to England, and China to Japan. No country can say that they own Linux.
- endurance - How would you eliminate the church? Its true members care about Jesus more than anything else. If you burn their buildings, they meet in houses and hotels. If you burn all their Bibles - well, good luck with that, but they will still carry much of God's Word in their hearts and other writings. With exception of 11 verses, the entire New Testament can be reconstructed from references found in the writings of the "church fathers", Could someone kill every Christian, their children, their neighbors, and everyone that knew them? Christians are very envangelistic, so a large number of people would fall into their circule of influence and need to be purged. Nations would have to anihlated and history books wiped clean of any reference to Christ and His followers. Doing this would create an incredible back-lash and interest, causing Christianity to spread even further. Now Linux developers and users may not be quite this zealous, especially if they are faced with persecution, but they are zealous bunch, working late nights, unpaid, often jeopardizing their day jobs for the sake of their love of Linux. Microsoft is trying to take them out, not in a violent way, but they seem to only be "stirring the hornet's nest" - making things worse instead of better. In both cases, persecution seems to make the body stronger, instead of having the effect intended by the persecutor.
BTW, they don't call this category, "Off the Wall" for nothing!