Monday, July 12, 2010

Spiritual Hiccups - God's Love and Individualism

We Americans are a very individualistic sort. Our individualism has generally served us well, although it has its dark side. But however favorably you may view this individualism, one thing is certain. The people who wrote the Bible did not live in an individualistic world. They tended to focus more on the group than on the individual.

You can see this in today's section of Paul's letter to the Roman Christians. Paul is wrestling with the fact that so many of his fellow Jews have rejected Jesus as Messiah. We Americans tend to view this along the lines of individual choice and individual consequences, but Paul seems to view it otherwise.

Paul speaks of their hearts being hardened by God, an event that opens salvation to non-Jews. But Paul also speaks of a still to come "full inclusion" of the Jews. I don't know that Paul is speaking of individuals. More likely he means Jews as a people, but clearly his frame of reference is God's plan to bring all peoples into a redeemed and renewed creation. This is not a contest with winners and losers, not a competition where some make it and some don't. It is simply God's love at work.

In our own families, at least in healthy ones, parents see their children as individuals, but their status as family members, as those who receive care and love, is never about their individual accomplishments. So why is it that so many Christians view the God most often called "Father" more like the coach of an elite team who easily cuts those who don't act just as they should?

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