This article is part of the Reactivity: Rethinking Social Media with Paul Tripp series.
In this episode, Paul Tripp discusses the message of individualism in our culture that is destructive to our relationships and is an enemy of the community that God carefully designed for us to live in.
I want to give you an example from my own experience of the individualism of this culture. I had posted something, and it was a lengthier post than I normally would post. The first comment was, “Stop it. Just retire.”
Now, that comment is the product of bold, raw individualism. It says, I don’t need you, and you don’t need me, and I’m going to take a shot at you and walk away. You would never respond to someone that way if you’re thinking, I need this person in my life. I need community in my life. I need people in my life. I’m not meant to live alone.
It’s very easy to say that self-reliance—individualism—is the enemy of community. The Bible is very clear that relationships are not a luxury. They’re essential, from the earliest moments of the creation of humanity—it is not good for man to dwell alone—to all the things that the New Testament says about the nature of the body of Christ and our need for one another. The gospel of the grace of the Lord Just Christ is deeply and pervasively and expansively relational. If you are telling yourself the lie that you don’t need relationships, you are immediately in spiritual danger and you’re living outside of the boundaries of the culture that Scripture depicts for us.
If I’ve bought into the individualism of my culture and I’m entering the worship service, I am not prepared for what I’m going to receive there. First of all, I don’t think I need the fellowship of other people. So, those people that greet me, I don’t really need to have a relationship with them. I’m not ready to receive corporate worship, because I do just as well worshiping God on my own. I’m not ready to receive preaching, because I do pretty well studying Scripture on my own. You cannot have individualism and a vibrant thankfulness for and participation in your local Christian community, your church. They just don’t go together.
If there’s any message that the gospel gives us, it’s that individualism leads to personal destruction and death. I cannot live the life that I was designed by the Creator to live by myself. First of all, I need divine rescue. I need God in my life. I don’t have the power, the wisdom, the strength, or the righteousness to do what I was designed to do on my own. So, right there, individualism goes out the window. But the Bible says I also need God’s people in my life, because they have been put as tools of God’s grace in my life. Here’s the plan that’s laid out in Scripture: God makes his invisible grace visible by sending people of grace to give grace to people who need grace. That’s community. That’s mutuality. That’s neediness. The move of grace is not from dependency to independence. The move of the work of God’s grace is from independence to a greater willingness to own my dependence on God and others.
I want to ask you a question. Again, all of these questions really take reflection. In your everyday conversation with yourself—I say this all the time, that no one’s more important than you are because no one talks to you more than you do. In your self-talk, do you preach to yourself a gospel of individualism and self-sufficiency, or do you preach to yourself a gospel of humble neediness and dependency?
Let me pray for you.
Lord, if there’s a dangerous tendency in the sin that still lives inside of us, it’s that it causes us to think that we are better off on our own, that we have everything we need inside of ourselves. Yet you let us know that we live in desperate need of help. Help us to humbly own the nature of our dependency and willingly give ourselves to dependent community with you and dependent community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. In Jesus’s name, amen.
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