A woman selects a nice looking dress from a clothes rack in a store. Simultaneously she becomes aware that a second lady wearing the same dress has just walked out of the dressing room while a third lady stands in front of a mirror, again dressed identically. She replaces the beautiful dress on the rack.
A man standing at the baggage claim in an airport tries to identify his luggage from what appears to be an endless stream of look-a-likes. He shakes his head in dismay.
If you have seen the previous television commercial, the message is clear and it appeals directly to the values of our American culture. Be your own person. Be different. Stand up for yourself and make your own way. America is the land where the spirit of individualism has taken root and thrives.
Like most any element of human culture, individualism carries with it both blessing and peril. When the culture of being your own person and following your own path clashes with the Lordship of Jesus, the unexamined response can be disastrous.
Consider the American who falsely views his relationship with God as being primarily about his or her own personal walk with God. Instead of being fulfilled through our individual relationship with God, scripture describes God placing us into a covenant community where each member is to function for the benefit of others.1
Or take the American who likes to discover his or her own path. Jesus’ call presents a stark contrast, the invitation to conform to his image. While Jesus is not calling all of us to exhibit the same personality, God’s people are to share the same values and to grow toward reflecting the likeness of Jesus.2 What I think is good, right, and best, is to be shaped not by my thinkums, but Christ.
While individualism has encouraged Americans to think for themselves and to be self-motivated, unbridled individualism has downplayed the church, distorting how God’s people think about their relationship to God and to other Christians. When it comes to a Christian outlook on life, “Jesus is Lord,” not “I did it my way.”
Being a child of God does not revolve around your personal meditation or sitting alone on a mountain top experiencing God. What is Christian? “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”3
1/ 1 Corinthians 12:14-31
2/ Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18
3/ Ephesians 4:15-16 NIV
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