It is interesting when one considers the writings of Christian theologians, exegetes, and mystics. I would include even this blog, called “Jesus community.” And of course we have to go to scripture and consider its narrative, prose and poetry, as well. The consideration I’m thinking of is whether individuals or community is given primacy of place. With the question: Does it have to be either, or?
Of course we see everything through our own cultural lens which where I live seems profoundly individualistic, especially when compared to most other societies in the past and the present. We’ve inherited a Western Modern Enlightenment philosophy through which we’ve looked at the world for so long, it’s really hard for us to gauge well just what we or others are doing, or what the Bible does for that matter, in terms of individual and community. I think some of our best writers are quite strong with reference to the individual, but I find one hard pressed to find good writing in terms of community, though it is out there.
I share here as one who does not imagine for a second that somehow I have this matter in hand myself. In fact I think I’m too steeped on the individualistic side. However we need to see the narrative of scripture for what it is. Individuals are addressed over and over again, and are spoken of. Many examples of it. But it is never a matter of individuals standing alone, but in or with reference to a community. People end up being called into community which has its grounding in the Trinity as well as in the people God calls to be his own. The church is comprised of members united together in Christ, indeed it is called a body, the body of Christ.
I think we have to see life in terms of both. Yes, we address each other as individuals, but none of us can live well or according to God’s will in isolation. We are meant to live in relationships, fundamentally to God and to each other. Perhaps we need to emphasize the communal aspect more, since our culture and society is given more to an isolated individualism, overall. I personally prefer a body of individuals in some kind of sync together, over a body of individuals in which the emphasis is on each individual. The point is just how everything fits together, the bigger picture.
Individuals together in community in Jesus for the world.