Sometimes our culture sets us up against God's will for our lives.
As we continue walking out the Outreach Saga in the local park, we're learning things all the time. We are meeting next to a low-income housing complex of 100 or so units. In getting to know the people there, I've noticed that they have their own little community there.
Since it is an area of low resources, the people have learned to pool together to help each other out. They spend more time interacting. Sometimes they have conflict, but living so close together they live differntly than a lot of suburban Americans.
We've been blessed to be accepted by a group of them, and they come on Sunday evenings to fellowship, to talk about the Word, and to encourage one another.
My point in this post is the contrast to how individualistic we are as Americans. We are taught to do things independently. Pull youself up by your own bootstraps. It sometimes is a sign of weakness to need someone's help.
American Christians play into this. We talk about "our walk with God" as an individual thing. We forget that we are called to be part of a body, a family.
I don't think this is God's will for us. Certainly I have to answer to God for my own actions, and I have a relationship with Jesus. The ancient world used to think solely in the concept of the clan or tribe, and the individual didn't matter. According to Thomas Cahill's book The Gift Of The Jews, the idea of an individual relationship with God, an independent reckoning was revolutionary.
Western culture has taken this too far. We are built to need one another. I know some people would rather be hermits. My mother could leave work on Friday and not talk to another soul until Monday morning and it would suit her just fine. She said liked it, but I would argue she let herself get into a mindset that she wasn't really created for.
I would argue that the Western idea of individualism and the Eastern focus on community over a person are extremes, and that the Biblical ideal would foster a strong personal relationship with Jesus in a healthy community of believers that encouraged and exhorted one another.
I'm glad that we're learning as much in this process as the people that are joining us in the park. When you don't have a lot, you have to work together with other more. I'm encouraged by their example, and I hope Christians can wake up to the value of having brothers and sisters in Christ that keep us accountable and build us up. Yes, people can hurt you, but the blessings of opening up far outweight the risks in the long-run.