The notion in last week’s sermon that being ‘authentic’ is presently over-rated, and not valued by Paul received some push back. So I will have another bite at the cherry.
The underlying question is this – what makes us human beings? What do we need to flourish?
The world’s answer is something like – we need to be centred. We need to be in touch with our true self, our desires and our gifts. We need to love ourselves and fill our own cup so that our cup can overflow and fill others. Being 'true to who you are' is the world’s definition of authentic.
Put another way, I am an individual. Unique, special – and when I believe and express that, I become the best me, who then blesses others. Individualism is usually contrasted with collectivism. In collectivism, it is not the individual who is special, but the collective. Communism is an example of collectivist philosophy. Disney does a great job of parodying collectivism. Films like Antz and Bee Movie revolve around the individual who is supposed to sacrifice their uniqueness for the good of the colony, but actually stands up – alone, and ends up being the hero. Collectivism denies that individuals are distinctively gifted, known as one person by God, and created in God’s image. So if we aren’t collectivists – we must be individualists! Right?
Paul, in my reading, is neither a collectivist nor an individualist. We are not simply a cog in a big machine, or an entity in our own rights. Rather we are a living member (think arm or leg as members) of a body. And when you think 'body', don’t think of the universal church, but a local church family or body.
We are individuals who exist in relationship. Limbs not connected to the body die. Just as ears need eyes, so we all need each other. Human beings are not independent, but inter-dependant. Persons thrive when loved by others in community. Love from God and others is more life-giving than self-love. (Don’t we know this under restrictions!)
Being authentic, if it has a place, is about being true to who God made you to be, and honouring the body that you are intimately and dependently connected to.
Rev David Rietveld
Download this week's Newsletter here.