Volume. XXIX, No. 50
Sunday, 14 June 2015


From the Pastors Heart: Thoughts About Democratic Individualism


Read the following verse and see if we can produce any message out of it.  Judges 18:7, “Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man.”  It seems to be a plain text about a simple description of a city called Laish.  The background of this passage goes all the way back to the days of the judges. The tribe of the Danites was still looking for its settlement and sent five spies to search for a land.  They came to mount Ephraim and to the house of Micah where a Levite was hired to be a household priest, who gave the spies  counsel in verse 6.  Subsequently, the spies came to Laish where life appeared to be easy and peaceful.  Suppose that we are Bible students.  What kind of lesson can we learn from such a passage?  Many years ago, I read a message preached by Martyn Lloyd Jones from this verse (18:7), and I thought his message was extremely well prepared and relevant to modern day Christians.  Let me share some of my thoughts from the passage with you.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the Church of Christ as a body with many members.  What I am going to write today is a continuation of that thought.  First of all, let us consider a few characteristics of people found from Judges 18:7.  (1) They dwelt carelessly.  Other translations commonly point out that it was a life in safety and security.  (2) Their lifestyle was after the manner of the Zidonians.  Sidon was secured by the sea and fortification.  Therefore, they did not have to worry about any danger of wars, and even if there were impending dangers, they were confident that they could easily defend themselves.  They focused on their own things and needs only.  (3) They lived safe and secure.  They lived in peace and were undisturbed.  It was a real blessing that they did not have to live a life under threats.  They also felt safe and had confidence in life.  (4) There was no ruler over them.  Thus, they were self-reliant and self-determining people.  The NIV reads as “since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous.”  It is not a literal translation.  It gives off the nuance of the sentence.  The ESV says, “lacking nothing that is in the earth and possessing wealth.”  The Septuagint reads it as “there is no one perverting or shaming a matter in the land, no heir extorting treasures.”  The RSV reads it as “lacking nothing that is in the earth, and possessing wealth.”  Whatever the ideas of the verse might be, what we can see is that the people in Laish were independent, self-reliant, and financially secure people.  They were self-determining people.  (5) They lived far from Zidonians.  It is an indication that they were in a sense, exclusive people.  They had their own castle in which they enjoyed quietness of life.  (6) They did not have any business with any man.  It means that they were self-sufficient.  They did not have to ask anyone for anything.  It also means that they did not care about their neighbors.  They were able and intelligent people.  Having considered all of these characteristics of their life or lifestyle, we cannot but say that they had all things they needed.  Their life was pleasant and self-serving.  They had everything they could possibly desire to have in life.  However, we all must know that it was not the end of the story.  Their end turned out to be utterly miserable and tragic.  Their end was a kind of tragic failure.  Everything they seemed to enjoy became instruments of their destruction.  The Danites invaded  their territory.  The town of Laish was easily captured.  In fact, it was captured with extreme ease.  Its inhabitants might have thought that living alone, being far away from everyone including Sidon, was a good thing.  They did not want to be disturbed by anyone.  Well, when they were invaded, no one came to their rescue, either.  When they thought everything was okay, a mighty enemy force came upon them and destroyed them.  One thing was very sure.  When they realized they were in danger, it was too late.  As they did not have anything to do with others, so they received the same treatment in return.  Their self-serving life was a hindrance to their survival.  
Second, all the points we have observed so far are relevant to believers living today.  (1) Modern day Christians are inclined to live a life of democratic individualism, which is not much different from the life of the people in Laish.  (a) By definition, democracy means “a state of
society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.”  Thus, the members of a community or a society enjoy equal rights and privileges.  In principle, it is good.  All members in Hope church must have equal rights and privileges.  However, there are two additional thoughts added to such a notion of democracy.  They are: duties and higher thoughts of God (His Word).  Members of any democratic society must share the burdens of work.  They have duties.  Yes, the believers of Jesus Christ do have duties.  Surprised?  Why?  Haven’t we known it?  When some members of the one body of Christ do not fulfill their duties, the other members must bear more burdens of labors.  When I neglect my duties, someone else has to do extra work for me.  Too many believers are enjoying free rides without doing their duties.  And also the thoughts of God, the principles of God’s Word must precede to the thoughts of the members of Christ’s body.  Democracy in the Lord’s business must not lead us to do what we like or even what we think right.  We have equal rights and privileges to do what God wants us to do.  In other words, democracy in the Christian church has to be led by the precepts of God, not by the thoughts and desires of man.  (b) Individualism is defined as “a social theory advocating the liberty, rights, or independent action of the individual,” “the principle or habit of or belief in independent thought or action,” or the pursuit of the individual rather than common or collective interests; egoism.”  Such definitions of individualism bring spiritual conflicts with the meaning of the Church, which is the body of Christ.  It is because each member is to exist for the body.  Apart from the body, members cannot survive.  In return, members will be benefitted from the body.  Members cannot exist apart from the body.

Some professing believers have misunderstood that they can keep and maintain spiritual growth and fervency independently from the rest of the body.  However, it is a misunderstanding.  Believers are all interconnected spiritually in Christ.  We need each other.  It rejects any egoistic, selfish, and individualistic brand of Christianity.  We help and serve one another.  Let me illustrate the point.  Some Christians are not interested in missions.  They think that missionary work is for someone else, and they really don’t care.  They hope that someone else will do the work well.  However, the un-evangelized world is not someone else’s world, but the world in which all of us live together.  We have heard news about legalization of gay marriages so much in recent times.  We think that such an issue does not have anything to do with us, except a bit of sadness.  We do not know that such a change will affect our families and church sooner or later.  After this issue, there will be tons of other issues to come, including euthanasia or legalized use of marijuana.  As we know, abortion is not even an issue any more in our society.  Teenage pregnancy and divorce issues are treated like just ordinary matters.  Liberal churches have instilled false teachings in the minds of professing believers.  Some believers think that such a problem is not theirs, as long as they are okay at the moment by being alone and by staying away from everybody.  However, that is wrong.  The impact coming from such problems will affect and influence our children and families.  My pleas to all Hopefuls to build up a Bible believing and faithful church is not for me, but for all of us, the body of Christ.  We cannot survive by being alone.  We are not meant to be alone.  We are to be a part of the body.  Are you people like the ones in Laish?  Democratic individualism will disintegrate the local congregations.  Just consider the following questions: “What have I done for fellow believers?”  “What have I done for the body of Christ?”  “Am I together with other members of the same body?”  Or, am I constantly crying out, “Leave me alone.  Do not bother me.  I am okay though I am alone!”


Lovingly,
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope

 

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