Individualism, Community, the Church, and Love

I still haven't forgotten to respond to the posts concerning group-thinking and the like. I just don't know exactly what I think yet.

In America, we exalt the individual. I should be worried about myself and only myself seems to be the new American creed. I should be independent and self-sufficient because through them I will receive happiness.

Individualism means "Belief in the primary importance of the individual and in the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence."

Christianity goes against this definition of individualism. As Christians, we realize that we are inter-dependent - it is unhealthy for us to be independent. We realize that we are part of a body and that what effects my neighbor also effects myself.

Because we are in a culture where individualism needs to be brought down a little bit for that balance to happen, it might appear that I am swaying the other way. I don't mean to come across that way. There needs to be a healthy balance between the individual and community. The focus on the individual shouldn't lead to individualism. The focus on the community shouldn't lead to blind following.

Soren Kierkagaard, who many wrongly perceive as the father of post-modernism, had to teach people to make their faith real to themselves because they lived in a culture where Christianity was the norm. We, being in an opposite culture, need to teach people to make the faith that is real to themselves result in love towards those around them. We need to turn off our televisions and spend time with one another. We need to stop worrying about what is the minimum that God wants out of me to get to heaven and start to concern ourselves about what God wills and live that out in relation to those around us. We need to stop making our faith selfish and make it loving. For so long we have confused our faith with just abstaining from sinful things and not with doing loving things.

God intends for us to be a community, not just lone ranger believers. The individualism of America seems to go against that. In America, we often view the purpose of community in light of how it will benefit me, but that should not be. We need to be an active participant of community whether it benefits me or whether I am just there as a giver. I really don't see how either role wouldn't result in the individuals being involved receiving benefits, but those benefits are not the reason to be involved; they are a byproduct that naturally comes from a Christian life. The fact that our heart is now a heart of love is the reason we are to be involved.

We need to also strike a balance between love and abstaining from sins. Abstaining from sin is still necessary, but our focus should also be on loving others. If that is the case, I believe we will abstain from sin.

Is the primary thing that God wants out of us worship and obedience? Many church traditions teach this (maybe rightfully so) but I seem to think not.

There is a tremendous difference between love and worship. The main thing God wants if for us to know and love him. The question we are left with is how we do that. It seems that Scripture teaches we love God by loving other people. God seemed to be more worried about love than law, even in the Old Testament prophets this was the case. As always, I could be wrong.

Hosea 6:6 - "6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."

Matthew 9:11-13 - "11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 12 But when he heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

Matthew 12:1-13 - Also a good section but too lengthy to post here.

Matthew 22:36-40 - 36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" 37 He said to him, " "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Galatians 5:13-14 - 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

1 John 3:23-24 - 23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

1 John 4:20-21 - 20 Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

The whole reason for the law in the Old Testament appears to have been man's failure to genuinely love one another. God was trying to clarify how to love one another and various other things in the laws. If we would just love one another, then Christianity wouldn't turn into legalism. Christianity becomes legalistic when we try to act like we love one another without a heart of love.

Watch out for potholes.