Whether we come to define these senses because they are insinuated upon us by leather-bound books and years of rote instruction or by familial tradition and tribal practice, we have them. Thus, we all live with a measuring tool applied to our actions, our words. How often have you lamented, "I should have called so and so" or exalted, "I totally nailed that!" Your reasons for having those thoughts can be pared down to their simplest form and then measured against your tool for ascribing value: 'The Bible says...' or 'Rabbi told me...' or whatever your method is.
But now ask yourself how often you have thought "Someone should do something about X". And how often have you been that someone? Of course, the reason for thinking that "someone" should do something is not because you want some action taken to protect yourself. In order to protect yourself, you do something without declaring it. It should be done, it affects you, so you do it. But how often do you see something affecting someone else and then do something to correct it? And for purposes of this conversation, let's eliminate the obvious like pulling your 8-year-old son off of your 8-year-old daughter during a dispute about a glow-in-the-dark rubber bug. When do you see injustice, pain, cruelty - even simple inadequacy - and do something about it?
I just read an excerpt from a book I'm definitely going to buy - The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah and was completely blown away. Just about everything I read struck a chord with me, but this, in particular, was very interesting:
The American church, in taking its cues from Western, white culture, has placed at the center of its theology and ecclesiology the primacy of the individual. The cultural captivity of the church has meant that the church is more likely to reflect the individualism of Western philosophy than the value of community found in Scripture. The individualistic philosophy that has shaped Western society, and consequently shaped the American church, reduces Christian faith to a personal, private and individual faith.
I've had people ask me a million times why I'm so 'involved' in my neighborhood, my children's lives, etc. Truth is, I'm probably over-involved, so it's a fair question. But my answer is simple: I don't have it in me to be self-protective to the detriment of my community. I consider a lack of involvement in one's community to be a failure of morality - even of humanity - because my faith and my culture (not completely Western) have taught me so. If I see a need at my local park, and I attend that park, take my children to that park, smell the air and take in the greenery, I owe that park my care, my time, my consideration. If my child's school is lacking in something, then all the children are lacking, and they are all my children because we all belong to the same universe. There're a million different scenarios for this and obviously, I can't be involved in every single thing. I'm not going to be.
But I can strive. I can choose to remember that I am a 'we' and an 'us'. I can live in the Spirit - a Spirit that lives within us, in a million ways, with a million names - across all barriers. I can, and I will. Will you?