a worship reflection by Greg Reed
This is the last stop on a six-week journey of confessions. We have considered – God isn’t good; I’m self-sufficient; Freedom means I can do whatever I want; I am what I do; There isn’t enough/I am not enough; and today, I am an individual. Notice the prevalence of the word “I”. That is one of the struggles of our human nature. It is supposed to be all about me, isn’t it?
I AM AN INDIVIDUAL. Yes and no. Like many things in life, the problems are at the extremes. One extreme is individualism which is my conduct should be guided by a doctrine that my decisions should make my interests paramount (above all else). The other extreme is I have no standing, I will seek to get along and my decisions will just fit with everyone else (the lemming effect). While the scriptures seem to contain examples of both individualist thought and collectivist though, I think Jesus calls us to balance the personal good with the common good.
Jesus stated the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”. The second is like it, “You should love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and prophets”. The balance of personal good and common good. I am first individually responsible to God for who I am and what I do. I confess, repent, and turn toward God with the intent to obey. My faith is personal. Then I recognize that I have a responsibility to the rest of creation to love as God loves. God loves sacrificially – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son”. So we are to consider the needs of others equally with our own. The “I” changes to “We”. Paul emphasized this principle in his letters to the early church. For example, in Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
Paul also used the analogy of the human body to describe our mutualism in Christ. We are individual parts but we cannot function unless we are in harmony with the rest of the parts (individuals). Each part depends on the other. Each part supports the others. C.S. Lewis put it this way in his book Mere Christianity: “Christianity thinks of human individuals not as mere members of a group or items on a list, but as organs in a body – different from one another and each contributing what no other could. When you find yourself wanting to turn children, or pupils, or even your neighbors, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never meant them to be that. You and they are different organs, intended to do different things.”
The goal is a community of mutual love. Jesus told us this is an essential quality in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another ; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”. Notice in this brief statement Jesus said ”love one another” three times. It must be really important.
So think of it this way. If you find yourself out walking through a field, enjoying a view of the wonders of God’s creation and you come upon a turtle sitting on top of a fence post also enjoying a view of God’s creation – realize the turtle didn’t get there all by itself and neither can we.