Individualism is Fine, Done Together

Sara and her sister Jenni What do you do when you are thrown into a group of people that are all totally different from you, and also totally different from each other? For Deb and I, this usually doesn't happen all that often since we work from home and really don't see that many people.

When we do, it is people from church (for the most part, the same circle), or at a sporting event usually here at the local college.

This weekend we flew to Denver to be at our sons wedding and, as it usually happens, many other people flew in as well. People flew in from South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, and other places all to meet up in one location for one event, a wedding.

My wife and I sort of fell in between the ages of the wedding party and the parents, so in the few times everyone went out to do something we tagged along. Inevitably the conversation went to their lives at "home" and I started thinking about how different we all were (are), yet, here we all were together in one place.

There is a great saying from an episode of M.A.S.H. where they are discussing the finer points of individual differences when Frank says

Individualism is great, as long as we all do it together.

I love that. One of the hardest things for us to deal with sometimes is how different we all are and the lives we lead are all quite different. This weekend, among others, there was a teacher, a bar tender, an equestrian, business owner, doctor, programmer, a photographer, a comedian, mothers, and fathers and many more.

There were people who were married, divorced, divorced-remarried, separated, single, and ages that ranged from 2 to 80 year old. People who drank, people who didn't drink, those who were Christians, and those who were not, and many people who had never met each other before this weekend. I was talking to a friend of the groom, Ben, one morning and asked him if he had heard of a band I liked, and he said, no, but I am going to have to start writing down all these things I am learning. Then it hit me, what a great way to look at it.

If we all had the same views, same experiences, and all liked the same things, it would be incredibly boring. Many times differences just upset us, but I know I should try a little harder to embrace differences and try to use them as a learning opportunity. If we look at scripture and study the differences in people during the times of Jesus' ministry on Earth, we can see the people then were just as different from each then and yet Jesus was one of the most accepting people in history. This issue here is how we judge other people (see Matthew 7:1-2).

Lutzer in one of his books, Who Are You to Judge, put it this way to his readers:

How can we be guarded from Pharisaism on the one hand and mindless gullibility on the other?

We may disagree with how some people live their lives because it is not exactly how we live our own lives, but I try to remind myself that, that alone doesn't make it wrong. "To judge" means to exercise discernment and at other times it can mean to condemn (and sometimes both). We (and I) need to guard ourselves against the Pharisaical judgments, and perhaps we might learn something along the way. Thanks Ben.