“Expressive individualism.” It’s a term that’s been around for a few years, but one that’s been on my radar more recently. If I’m understanding it correctly, at its core is “You be you.” Be true to yourself. Be the authentic you. Community then being found with people like you whose highest calling is also being true to themselves. But what if “finding ourselves” really happens, as Jesus says, when we lose ourselves (Matt. 10:39)? What if we flourish as individuals when we are committed to a collective?
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. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. . . . Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
(1Corinthians 12:12-14, 27 ESV)
Jew and Greek. Slave and free. Expressive individualism within these parameters doesn’t leave much room for coming together (see yesterday’s thoughts). In this context, me being me would be at odds with me caring for you, much less wanting to be with you.
But I’m reminded that my “personal” relationship with Jesus means I’ve been baptized into a body with others who have a “personal” relationship with Jesus. Many others. Really different types of others. Yet all brought together in one Spirit, to be one body in Christ, and individually members of it.
Individually members. Me being me but as part of being something else. My true self found in the context of many others. My uniqueness celebrated as I’m part of a greater whole.
I know that hasn’t been everyone’s experience within the body of Christ, but it should be.
Unfortunately, “work in progress” body parts are gonna result in a “work in progress” body. Not trying to ignore or minimize the hurt and harm done so often by the church to the church, but also not wanting to lose sight of the fact that we’ve been called to be the church.
Called by the Father. Baptized by the Spirit. Becoming one body in the Son. No one of us able to be the whole. Individually compromised if we stay as individuals. Yet flourishing as individuals if we, by faith, individually pursue being members of one another as the body of Christ.
Expressive individualism is by definition a divider of people. Our identity found in others only as long as others look and think just like we do. But when it comes to the people of God, there should be “no division in the body.” Instead, each part is doing its part as each part cares for one another (1Cor. 12:25).
Me being me even as I know I’m serving you. My authentic self realized as I become an imitator of Christ. Finding myself as I lose myself in the body of Christ.
This morning, I’m thankful that I’m me. An image bearer of God redeemed by the blood of Christ. An individual. Individually a member of the body of Christ.
By His grace. For His glory.