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Epidemic of Individualism - Resistance to be Held Accountable


Imagine somebody coming and courteously questioning, “How is your family life?” or “How is your prayer life?” or “How is your thought life?” or “How wisely do you use your time?” To many who claim to be followers of Jesus and members of the body of Christ, this would be a blatant offense. There may be a wild reaction within (though not necessarily in words), “Who on earth do you think to question me?” “How does it matter to you the way I live?” “It’s personal; nobody has any right to intrude my personal life.”

Such frontal questions may expose the insecurity of a person. Should I say it also shakes the inner egotistic pillars? It may sting the heart. It may cause fretfulness. It may turn the face pale. It may even implant a root of bitterness towards the questioner. There may be a scream in heart, “Hello, I think you are crossing your boundaries!” Pitifully, the questioner maybe pushed at bay.

Why such bizarre reaction?

Permeation of Individualism
The terrible disease of our day which is rapidly destroying the potentiality of Christianity is known as ‘individualism’. This worldly philosophy has permeated Christianity like weeds in the field of wheat. This is prevailing in both Western and Eastern cultures. What you believe is personal. What you speak is personal. How you live is personal. There is no sense of accountability, dependency and community. Folks suppose – “My life is my business and nobody has any business to get into my business.” They live in their own isolated, self-sufficient world and do not want anyone to be a part of it. Each one associates with strong boundaries of so-called widely used cliché “it’s personal”.

Further, they relate to each other on a surface level. They don’t express their struggles, weaknesses, temptations, doubts, failures, nor are they interested to listen to the same. Anything that goes in the name of fellowship, church, meeting, friendship is merely superficial. They feel cozy in their hiddenness. They don’t want anyone to peep into their inner life. They resist people questioning their lifestyle. Why? Perhaps some of the reasons are as follows: That hurts. That shows who they are. They get exposed. They feel vulnerable. They feel submissive (this word is viewed as weakness today). So they want to live secure in a cage of individualism.

Should I say that this modern epidemic of individualism is nothing but sheer insecurity, or perhaps even egotism?

Christian Life – Personal and Communal
Now, this is not to say that Christian life isn’t personal. It isn’t just personal. Christian life is both personal and communal. It is personal in a sense every individual is responsible to make decisions of thought and act that would cater to his/her growth and maturity. It is personal in a sense each one has a personal relationship with the Living God and is accountable to Him for the choices he/she makes in life (Rom. 14:12). But it is also communal in a sense each person is a part of Christ’s community wherein loving one another, encouraging each other and holding one another accountable is fostered (1 Thess. 5:14; Heb. 10:25; 1 Pet. 1:22).

We precisely observe from the writings of the New Testament that our life is personal and our life also belongs to a community. That is what Paul was endeavoring to convince Corinthian Christians in 1 Corinthians 12. He was teaching them that although they are individuals, they together are community of Christ Jesus. He was persuading the folks to understand that living as a body of Christ means every individual belong to each other and ought to uphold one another for healthy functioning of the whole body. Why are we missing this truth in the body of Christ?

Moreover, when things were going terribly wrong in the Corinthian church, Paul rebuked these people of their individualism and for their lack of accountability (1 Cor. 5). In New Testament, the apostles taught the church to live as a community with a sense of belongingness and accountability (Mt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5; 2 Cor. 2:5-11; Gal. 6:1-3). They instructed them to protect themselves from the yeast, holding each other accountable in the holiness of God. And anyone who doesn’t want to be held accountable, resisting exhortation and correction, such a person is considered to be cut off from the body of Christ (2 Thess. 3:14).

Abuse of Leadership
I don’t deny how in the name of accountability, some, especially Christian leaders, abuse others by unhealthy controlling, exercising authority and curiously interfering with every aspect of life. No doubt such selfish leaders devour the body of Christ rather than devoting themselves to serve God’s people. As regretful and morally unjustifiable their actions are, however, the answer to abuse is not complete eradication of the elements which can rightly be used. We need to be passionate for the glory of God by allowing the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ. Intriguingly, the Spirit of God often uses His people to purge His people.

Besides, I regret to confess that this individualism is strongly and markedly visible in many Christian leaders. How difficult it is to know them personally! How difficult it is to confront them! How difficult it is to find them approachable! How seldom do we find them exemplifying transparency and accountability! How they live in isolation but expect their people to be accountable to them! How they epitomize dictatorial lifestyle but demand others to be submissive to them! Is it any wonder why believers are so individualistic when the saying goes – like leaders, like followers. Isn’t there a great need for change to begin from the top?

Becoming Vulnerable
The Holy Scripture particularly addresses in regard to having a godly influence upon each other. In doing so, we don’t allow ourselves to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). It is regretful to see numerous churches, fellowships, friendships and other relationships being involved in shallow relationships without honesty and openness. There is just a superficial exchange of information without any impact towards transformation. In this way, how can we have a powerful influence upon each other towards Christlikeness?

The focus on individualism, privatization of Christian life and the inherent right of each to lead his own life—all tend to nullify the New Testament concept of community and fellowship. People are so insecure, even with such strong egos, that when it comes to correction and accountability they try to protect themselves against such things, often to their own detriment. This is an age wherein people tend to be more anxious about hurt-me-not and hurt-others-not issues (while relishing backbiting and gossiping) rather than saving others from the deceitful and destructive works of sin.

In this corrupt world of advancement wherein there is much possibility to indulge in all kinds of sinful passions and actions, there is an immense need of encouraging each other, correcting one another, rebuking each other, and upholding one other accountable – all done in love and truth, in humility and grace. We have to uproot these individualistic elements from the body of Christ and live a life of community, protecting each other by the Holy Spirit from the depravity of sin.

Therefore, let us become vulnerable. Let us become humble. Let us learn to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21). Let us give others the freedom to disturb our ego. Let us lose our insecurity and gain our security in Christ. Let us peel off the facade. Let us become willing to listen – to learn and to receive exhortation. May people feel free to approach us to talk with us about our weaknesses and improvements. May they feel comfortable to encourage us. May they be permitted to warn us when our heart goes astray. May they be allowed to contribute in our lives towards Christlikeness.

Here is my final word: I don’t think we would become like Christ without allowing people whom God uses to mend us. The development of our character does not take place in isolation but in our relation with others.

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