It’s hard to believe that these words were penned in 1997. They feel fresh and, perhaps, that has much to do with the last two years of the social mantra, We’re in this together.
Family, community, and unity are the key words. But be careful. Christians are not the only ones using them. Have you noticed that many people are getting tired of individualism and self-focus? Self-interest, self-worth, self-esteem, what’s in it for me, the “me” generation, unbridled introspection and personal analysis – we are finally ready for a change. Individualism is out. From a strictly pragmatic perspective, we have found that individualism doesn’t work. As an antidote, the new buzz word is community.
The problem is that unless there is a radical change in the way we see God, ourselves, and others, community will become just another strategy for us to feel better about ourselves. It will relieve loneliness, and we will feel more “connected”, but if we pursue community for self-fulfillment rather than God’s glory, the community movement will simply be a passing fad…Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big And God Is Small
I wonder whether Moses the Leader, Joseph the Dreamer, Esther the Queen, Jeremiah the Prophet, Jonah the Evangelist, Mary the Mother, or Lydia the Purple-Clothier had to endure and grapple with such tiresome social introspection…
We have all wearied of endless analysis (social and personal) and self-reflection. How often do we examine wrinkles, blackheads, unruly hairs, and blemishes in the mirror only to leave the room virtually unchanged to those around us (yet imagining that we have made a difference)? How often do we scrutinize, sanitize, or slur the wrinkled, blemished, black and white marks of our social walls, then walk out of our front doors, flesh and blood, to encounter the essential flesh and bone that makes up our tangible world – not realizing that they are one-in-the-same soul? The soul of our social media is as real as the soul of our body and blood, however masked. The one we ridiculed or snubbed or mistreated online was the same as the one we offered smiles and condolences to in person (or vice-versa); we just didn’t know it.
Is this cause for more soul-searching? Or less? More analysis and commentary or less?
No level of self or cultural analysis has ever provided for me the grace, energy, empowerment, and heart-change that I find in God’s words. It all falls short; His words are the standard. It is only by His words that we are sanctified (Ephesians 5:26).
In short, I believe that the only way we see a ‘radical change’ in how we view God, ourselves, and others is by washing our minds more with God’s words than with the nightly news, praying more than we commentate, and remembering that worrying about ourselves – no matter how that is disguised – is virtually and realistically a fruitless venture in the end.
Where It Leads…
Confession: I’ve never read C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. From what I’ve heard of it, however, I could probably gain from the perspective on devilry in the Christian life.
(Did I just pen more introspection? O God, deliver me… from myself.)
Welch’s book is insightful and helpful. For me to say otherwise would be dishonest to the ways in which it wrote volumes upon my own heart in the past. Truly, many would benefit to read it…
Commentary, analysis, reflection – these are not sins or worthless things. As many a good preacher will note: God did give us brains for a reason – and, surely, that reason wasn’t only math. So much depends upon the heart, the foundation, of things in everything – doesn’t it?
Ladies, do we serve our husbands in their desire for ‘togetherness’ to appease them, to prove love with a little whitewashing, to feel less guilty, because we too desire that time together, because we want to keep the peace, or because we can say our service to our husbands is an extension of serving God (or a Free-Pharisee card to shirk the thing God actually told us to do, even at their expense)?
Men, we’ve all heard you use at least two of those reasons up there to deal with a pesky wife… Let’s keep things kosher when we cut the bull (on both sides).
Tribe leaders and commentators – Same questions. Is it for us or for them? Is it for God or for our kingdom building? Did we make new lines to excuse us from the ones God wrote (Free-Pharisee)?
The Holy Spirit may indeed lead us into such reflections, convictions, and analyses, but then these things should also lead to the repentance that grows from ‘godly sorrow’ – right? If navel-diving leaves us depressed and unmotivated, then we may be dealing with ‘worldly sorrow’, which leads to death (defeat) rather than repentance (life) (2 Cor. 7:10).
Note the fascinating order of events of this verse:
Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established.Proverbs 16:3
‘Just Another Strategy’…
So, what of it? Has community, togetherness, the group, our tribe’s ideals swollen over individualistic expressions, callings, or experiences? Insofar as socialism seems a nifty idea to naive pockets, perhaps… The herd over the individual’s freedoms was also a screeching mantra of the past year…
Still, I think Welch is right in that this present form of herd mentality and tribalism only serves to prop up the underlying fearful, lonely, and fatigued individual selves harping on golden chords of virtual togetherness they don’t mean…
Or, perhaps, it is simply a ‘togetherness’ we no longer know how to grasp and hold tight in the ‘real’ world. Virtual virtue is so much easier to attain….
It’s also easy to lose…