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Sermon Illustrations on individualism

Background

Never an Only Child

Whether we like it or not, the moment we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, that is, from the time we become a Christian, we are at the same time a member of the Christian church … Our membership in the church is a corollary of our faith in Christ.  We can no more be a Christian and have nothing to do with the church than we can be a person and not be in a family.  Membership in the church is a basic spiritual fact for those who confess Christ as Lord. 

It is not an option for those Christians who happen by nature to be more gregarious than others.  It is part of the fabric of redemption. There are Christians, of course, who never put their names down on a membership list; there are Christians who refuse to respond to the call to worship each Sunday; there are Christians who say, “I love God but I hate the church.” 

But they are members all the same, whether they like it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not.  For God never makes private, secret salvation deals with people.  His relationships with us are personal, true; intimate, yes; but private, no.  We are a family in Christ.  When we become Christians, we are among brothers and sisters in faith.  No Christian is an only child.

Taken from A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene Peterson Copyright (c) 1980, 2000 by Eugene Peterson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The Story of Joseph & High and Low Cultures

We individualists generally belong to what anthropologists term low-context cultures. That means that when we communicate, we assume a low level of shared information. We therefore assume it is good communication to spell things out. Not everyone thinks this way. The Bible was written in high-context cultures. People in these cultures assume there’s a high level of shared information between them and their audiences. This means they don’t feel the need to state everything explicitly. They take it as a given that everyone knows how things worked—and at the time, they did. This is not a sign they were bad low-context communicators, but rather that they were very good high-context communicators.

This is because the entire story of Joseph is actually about Joseph’s family and how God reconciled them. For collectivists, it is not a story about how God advanced Joseph’s career. It is not an urban-migration success story. Rather, Joseph angered his brothers, who respond badly, and Joseph becomes estranged from the family. Some collectivists might say it is Joseph’s fault. He should have known better than to anger his brothers.

My Mediterranean friends who are careful readers of the Bible place the blame somewhere else. Not on the brothers, not on Joseph. To them, most of the blame lies squarely with their father, Jacob. He is the father of all the brothers. As the head of the (ancient) household, it would have been his job to sort out disagreements and tensions like this one.

Taken from Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James. Copyright (c) 2020 by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.ivpress.com

Stories

The Story of Joseph & High and Low Cultures

We individualists generally belong to what anthropologists term low-context cultures. That means that when we communicate, we assume a low level of shared information. We therefore assume it is good communication to spell things out. Not everyone thinks this way. The Bible was written in high-context cultures. People in these cultures assume there’s a high level of shared information between them and their audiences. This means they don’t feel the need to state everything explicitly. They take it as a given that everyone knows how things worked—and at the time, they did. This is not a sign they were bad low-context communicators, but rather that they were very good high-context communicators.

This is because the entire story of Joseph is actually about Joseph’s family and how God reconciled them. For collectivists, it is not a story about how God advanced Joseph’s career. It is not an urban-migration success story. Rather, Joseph angered his brothers, who respond badly, and Joseph becomes estranged from the family. Some collectivists might say it is Joseph’s fault. He should have known better than to anger his brothers.

My Mediterranean friends who are careful readers of the Bible place the blame somewhere else. Not on the brothers, not on Joseph. To them, most of the blame lies squarely with their father, Jacob. He is the father of all the brothers. As the head of the (ancient) household, it would have been his job to sort out disagreements and tensions like this one.

Taken from Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James. Copyright (c) 2020 by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.ivpress.com

Studies

The Spectrum of Individualism and Collectivism

Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede measured individualism and collectivism across people from fifty-three nations. He found the three most individualistic nations in the world were the United States, Australia, and Great Britain. Their scores weren’t just the furthest left of the global norm; they were actually more than double it.

Taken from Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James. Copyright (c) 2020 by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.ivpress.com

Analogies

Comparing Collectivist & Individualist Cultures: Like Apples & Oranges

The difference between collectivist and individualist cultures is not a surface value, such as “some people eat more rice than we do.” Individualism and collectivism describe two very different ways people relate, interact, and live together, but much more too, such as how they view themselves, the way they think, the emotions they feel, the way they make decisions and why, and what motivates them to behave the way they do.

Let’s picture these two cultural worldviews like apple trees and orange trees; they are really quite different. They are not technically polar opposites. They are better described as different kinds of tree. Just as individualist societies are not all the same, likewise with collectivist cultures. Not every orange tree is identical, either. There are multiple kinds of oranges: Navel, Cara Cara, Valencia, blood, clementine, and so many more, without even discussing the other kinds of citrus. Similarly, when we compare one collectivist culture with another, we can see all kinds of differences between them.

A Far East Asian and Middle Eastern culture can both be collectivist, but there are significant differences between them. The United States and Britain are individualist cultures. Let’s say they are both apple trees, but they are not the same. What’s more, not everyone in the United States is the same! They may all be apples, but there are dozens of varieties, including Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Cortland, and more.

…We are well aware that the culture of Galilee differed considerably from that of Corinth. Nevertheless, we can speak of the orange trees of ancient Mediterranean culture when comparing it to the apple trees of modern Western culture. The biblical cultures of the Mediterranean world were all collectivist societies and…had a lot of foundational elements in common.

Taken from Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James Copyright (c) 2009 by E. Randolph Richards and Richard James. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

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