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  • David Defries

Individualism and Community

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Rom 12: 15-16

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil 2:4

We may live in the most individualistic society that has ever existed on the Earth. No, seriously, think about it… We live in houses and apartments with a kind of "bunker" mentality. We expect no one to encroach on that sacred territory. There should be no noise issues or nosy neighbours and we build high fences and privacy walls to ensure that will be the case. In fact, we barely even talk to our neighbours, let alone know who they are. We leave for work via our cars or public transit, but even if there are others in our close proximity, there's rarely a conversation and, if there is, it's usually very surface level. ("lousy weather today", "how about that local sports team", "how are you?", "I'm good") Work relationships are "professional", so there's rarely any meaningful connection. Maybe we run errands after work with the entire mentality of "I need to quickly get this thing, then get home". There's no room for other people, for deep connection, for community.

Don't get me wrong, there are parts of individuality that are really good. We tend to think for ourselves better, we tend to challenge the status quo to drive change, and we have the opportunity to pursue individual success like at no other time before. However, there's also a negative side to this which bears thinking about. We have a society full of people who are lonely or craving meaningful connection. Depression and anxiety are pervasive and constant. Broken relationships are the norm and many people feel like they don't even know how to have or keep a "normal" relationship.

God didn't create us to be on our own. He created us to be a part of something. To belong. To live in community and deep relationship together. God created us to be in family and, for those who lose their families, to be adopted into another. Psalm 68: 5-6b says that God is a "Father of the fatherless and protector of widows" and that He "settles the solitary in a home". Also, when we come to God and are redeemed by Him, we don't just end up going it on our own. God created the church… a place that is supposed to be a loving community of people in relationship together and with God. It doesn't matter what your political leanings, quirks, opinions, or social miscues are. The church is supposed to be a place where you are welcome and where you belong.

Here's my concern in regards to this: how come so many people are forsaking the church or any kind of Christian community? The very place that is designed to nurture you and provide relationship and connection is the very place that people are avoiding, especially during this season. Now I don't think there's a simple answer to this. Lots of factors play in. Part of it is the Covid crisis (on whatever side of that your opinion lies). Part of it is that the church hasn't been demonstrated itself to be a safe place or a place of deep connection. Quite the opposite. I know a lot of people who have been hurt by the church so that they forego coming. Part of it is that people get distracted by other things in their lives… career, sports activities, vacations, etc.

However, I think that at root of a lot of this is individualism. We become so enamoured with our own perspective and personal way of thinking that no one wants to follow a group that even slightly deviates from the way that we would do it. If enough of these small differences grow, then people leave the church and their community connection and strike out on their own in the faulty belief that they can find something that more closely resembles what they think and that will satisfy them. It's an individual mentality that demands the group conform to the person rather than the person conform to fit the group.

The problem with this is that when crisis hits (ie. Covid) everyone strikes off on their own because no one is handling the situation quite like they think it should be handled. We're like sheep who all scatter in every direction when the wolves attack and so, each individual gets picked off and everyone is worse for it. There's actually safety and provision in the herd. There's life, relationship, community in the herd. At a time where we're more separated and alone than ever, we need that community. We can't head off in our own direction without actually causing our own hurt and potentially destruction.

This is a time to come together. A time to meet as church and deepen relationships. A time to support each other. We have to gather around the fundamentals that are really important (like who Jesus is and what He has done for us) rather than divide over things that don't actually matter in the grand scheme of things (like Covid or vaccines). Heading off on your own individual path or crusade leaves you at risk and without support. Let's be a people that support each other and unite around our common foundational beliefs rather than the opinions that divide us.

If you need help, support, or a community to grow with, please reach out to us at RockHaven Church, or 403-660-0860.

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