THE TYRANNY OF INDIVIDUALISM

I think everyone ought to have the opportunity to spend five days with two busloads of teenagers! Being together 24/7 was so enlightening and exciting and, in some ways, discouraging. I learned so much from them!

One of the things we talked about a lot in the weeks prior to the trip was that this would be a group activity. (That’s a difficult concept in our radically self-sufficient culture where private rights and ultra-individualism are worshiped with great enthusiasm.) One of the priorities for traveling with teens is staying together and we had a great adult-to-student ratio of no more than four students for every adult. From the first stop for food, many of the students complained about not being allowed to wander off on their own – the were required to stay with their chaperon.

One girl said to me, “I need my personal space.” I replied, “Great, you can have all the space you need once we get back to school but not now.” She glared at me and stomped off. Individualism.

Many of the meals were provided but the selection was always limited. For instance, at Bubba Gump’s the choices were Shrimp, Fish and Chips, or a Cheese Burger. One guy saw a poster advertising crab – but that wasn’t an option for the group. He wanted crab and couldn’t understand why that wasn’t a choice even if he was willing to pay for it. Being part of a group means giving up my right to demand my way. Individualism.

One student got very upset when the security guard at the hotel stopped her in the hallway. All she wanted to do was get her cell phone from her sister in a room across and down the hall – at 1:30 in the morning. But all the students had been told they were to stay in their rooms from lights out until time for breakfast. Individualism.

Because we worship individualism more than we worship God, we’ve allowed this individualism to creep into the church as well. People tell me, “I wanted the church to have a video projector, so I used my tithe and bought one.” What arrogant individualism! First of all, if you decide how to spend the money that ought to be given to God, does it really count as tithe? Second, what if the leadership had already determined that fixing the sound system was a higher priority than a video projector? Individualism.

People who are far from God, and especially teenagers and young adults, see this level of individualism in our churches and in our lives and assume the church approves. Do we? Don’t the Scriptures call us to die to self and set aside the old ways in order to function as a community? It seems to me that we are called to live as a group – crucifying our selfish agenda in order to live in koinonia.

How do we address our culture’s destructive individualism? It starts in my life and yours. It gets worked out in the household of faith. Somehow we have to learn how to do this in ways that are obvious without being preachy. People who are far from God don’t want to be told what to do and what not to do – they need to have it modeled for them.

The “little trinity” of me, myself and I much be rejected in order to center our attention, by the power of the Holy Spirit, on the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We become living sacrifices in order to allow the Holy Spirit to radically transform our minds, attitudes, priorities, and lifestyle.

Together in Christ

Jim

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