From my youth I've seen many examples of "American heroes" on the TV and movie screens. John Wayne was probably the quintessential hero. He stood alone, strong, individual, fighting for what was right, that sort of thing. Most of them are like that in American lore. In comic books and their television and movie offshoots we have superheroes like Batman, Superman, and Spiderman. And they're not all fictional types. Abraham Lincoln, for instance, stood alone against slavery and, by his positions and choices brought about the emancipation of slaves in America. Heroic. That's our hero image, a stand-alone kind of hero who does what is right with strength and courage.
It's interesting to me how this image has leaked into American Christianity ... and not in a good way. Recently I read that actor Bruce Willis was an atheist. Another source, however, denied this. Willis was quoted as saying he had no use for organized religion. Thus, "atheist". But another quote was offered that said he believed in God. So, not "atheist". The "no use for organized religion" concept seems to be a direct offshoot of American Christianity where we admire the lone wolf, the Lone Ranger, the rugged individual who needs no one and just does what is right. "That's the kind of Christian I want to be," many American Christians might say. So they stay away from church and just slog their way through life, "Just me and Jesus."
How odd that Scripture never presents Christianity this way. Yes, sure, it's "me and Christ", but never "Just me and Christ." Biblical Christianity is presented as Christians in a body (1 Corinthians 12). Paul says, "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ." (1 Corinthians 12:12) He says, "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." (1 Corinthians 12:27) He warns against the two extremes -- either "I'm not that part, so I'm not important" (1 Corinthians 12:15-17) and "They're not the part that I am, so they're not important." (1 Corinthians 12:21-22) The claim, in fact, is not that we're simply supposed to be a body, but that "God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose." (1 Corinthians 12:18)
This "body" functionality, where each has his or her own function to perform for the body, is accomplished by the gifting of the Spirit. "Oh," I've heard far more than a few times, "that doesn't include me." Or they'll tell me, "I know my gift ... the gift of gab." But Scripture says, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:7) It's not that some get a spiritual gift and some do not. Each gets a gift. More importantly, that gift is not for your personal pleasure. it is "for the common good."
It seems to me that many American Christians have carefully removed passages like 1 Corinthians 12 from their Bibles. "Christianity is about relationship, not religion. We don't need a church to commune with God." Oh, and the ever popular "Just me and Jesus." Sounds brave, except it is not what Scripture describes. The Christian life is an interconnected life where we serve one another and are, in turn, served by one another. God's Word says that each of us has been given a spiritual gift and if you're not actually connected to believers, particularly a local body, you're not likely using that gift for what it was intended, for the purpose it was given. Imagine the insult to the Holy Spirit! "Thanks for that gift of ____. I'll just put it in the closet, stored nicely. I don't think I'll really use it."
Christianity is a uniquely "other" way of life. Built on "love one another" (John 13:34) and functioning as an interconnected body of Christ where "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Corinthians 12:26), we are not designed to be a John Wayne or Captain America or Wonder Woman. We are designed to heroically invest our lives in each other. When we fail to do it, we weaken the body of Christ. When we succeed, we become a powerful force for God's work in this world. There is no room in Christianity for Lone Ranger Christians, no matter what American individualism tries to tell you.
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