Monday, October 17, 2005

Bigger Than Me

“ But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.”
(1 Corinthians 12:20)

God has a extraordinary view of humans. At the dawn of creation, community was on the forefront on His mind. Community was to exist between the human and the Divine. Community was to exist between husband and wife, and it was to permeate all of the human race. God Himself, is a community of One and designed us in His image. Sin has marred aspects of that image and in many places shattered realities of community. As we have seen, we live in an isolated society. Not only are we told to live with the dog eat dog mentality, each dog is now entitled to his own house with a barricade garage, back deck and a privacy fence. Interactions are often reduced to minimal and superficial proportions.

We hear catch phrases like, “It’s my business,” “my faith is personal,” “as long as what I do doesn’t hurt someone else.” All of these statements are mere epitaphs declaring our independence and freedom, not to mention the massive undercurrents of selfishness, endeavoring to do what we want to do, when we want to do it, how we want to do it, with no feedback from those passing by. But this is the world we live in, a world of people, each wanting it their way. Why else would companies like Burger King boast by saying, “We do it your way.”

The idea of one person wanting what he/she wants without any thought or consciousness to those around him/her is a concept far from the heart and intent of God. Though, we are designed uniquely as individuals, each with a distinct calling, gifting(s), purpose and passions. Each of these were designed to function together within a community of Christ followers. The Apostle Paul, understanding this well declared, “for we are member one of another”

“we are members of one another.”
(Ephesians 4:25)

The word member in the Greek refers to the “different limbs of the human body.” Each of
these limbs is “a member of the human body.”

Arms on a human body
are called limbs and members of the body. Paul says, that just as an arm is intimately united as a member in the community of the body, so believers in Christ, are just as intimately connected, related and apart of one another.

To expound further, members also spoke “of bodies given up to criminal intercourse, because they are as it were members belonging to the harlot’s body.”[i]

In other words, if a harlot was convicted of harlotry she and her body were considered unclean, worthy only to be stoned. Moreover, they looked at those whom she had had intercourse with to be just as unclean and worthy to be stoned. They were considered members one of another.

Regardless of the volume of societal billboards and commercials exhorting us to obey our (individual) thirsts, we must understand that all of creation was designed to be bigger than the me. We were designed for community. When God looks upon the human race, especially Christ followers, He doesn’t see them as individuals, but as one bride. When God looks at a local congregation, He sees one church, as if it were one person.

q What are some ways our culture idolizes individuality?

q Can you think of some ads/commercials that further the idea of “do what you want” or “do what feels good” philosophy?

q How have these undercurrents of meism affected the many people interacting, even at church?

q How has the desire to get service “my way” influenced how Americans shop for a church?

If the source of America’s social disintegration is to be pinpointed so that it might be remedied, honesty compels us not to neglect this issue (selfishness)...Self-centeredness and its related vices—crime, illegitimacy, child neglect—are exploding in America because, after centuries of Western philosophy devoted to the purpose, Americans are glorifying extreme individualism beyond healthy limits, and beyond anything ever experienced by another national culture.[ii]Andrew Peyton Thomas, Wall Street Journal

[i] New Testament Greek Lexicon, (mel’-os – 3196).
[ii] Andrew Peyton Thomas, in the Wall Street Journal, August 9, 1995


Relic said...

Is it possible that the foundations of our nation, being independence and freedom, work directly against the ideas of community and selflessness that you are speaking of? It seems that our society has very quickly(229 years) taken the values of freedom and independence to unhealthy extremes. We have more monuments to freedom and more celebrations of our independence now than ever before, yet many of us live in "cul-de-sac" communities and don't care enough to know our neighbors names. Why? Perhaps part of it is because tuly caring for someone, or just caring about them, demands a level of commitment (to someone other than ourselves) that we are not accustomed to living with. We certainly don't, as a whole, lack for commitment to our carreers, our money, our reputations, or our favorite reality TV show. Perhaps we are simply overcommitted in many wrong areas.

It's claerly a huge issue with many ingredients, but I wonder if the solution isn't much simpler than it may seem.

J.L. said...

Relic, Interesting thoughts and questions. Though "independence" and "freedom" are often used synonymously, they may not be. God has created us to experience “freedom.” This is one of the reasons Christ came, to bring freedom to the human-race (see Galatians 5:1). However, true freedom, as expressed in Scripture is a freedom that is paradoxically inter-dependent on God Almighty and a community of others. True freedom is experience the greatest, when one learns the art of serving others.

Isn’t it ironic, that in man’s attempt to be “free” from limitations placed by God, he became enslaved to sin. And then, Jesus says, if you want to be “free,” become “enslaved” to Me.

As Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 6:12 – all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. And he added, “I will not be mastered by any…” In other words, there are many things Paul “could have done out of freedom,” but in that freedom of expression could/would have quickly became enslaved to those very passions and desires. Therefore, true freedom was to allow oneself to be restrained, not expressed.

We are it seems quite content to remain behind the picket-fence, or better stated the privacy fence in the back yard. It does require much effort to reach out (effort beyond my own insecurities to start with….which often times is enough to derail me all together)… but beyond that, a commitment of time and interested, which can’t be void of authenticity. Authenticity, which is often is small supply, since commitments to so much else is in such high demand.

Is the “solution simpler than it seems…?” The major road block seems to be simply put…. SELFISHNESS… It seems, many are simply Enslaved to ThemSelves… in the land of the Free, we have become bound to our Self… Much Independence, perhaps void of true FREEDOM… Especially, since Christ’s definition of freedom was ultimately FREEDOM from Self and Sin…..