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  • Writer's pictureRick LoPresti

Individuals or groups?

Unity strengthens marriages, families, communities, organizations, and nations. Division weakens them. God and the devil both know this. This was manifested early in man’s history at the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9). Although men were bent on disobeying God and making their own plan, even God Himself acknowledged that their purpose had power because they were united. He sent the confusion of languages to divide them into groups based on their ability to communicate with each other, and thus defeated their evil purpose. This is the origin of man being divided into nations. Until that time all men spoke the same language.

Originally the people of Israel were to be one nation with one common set of values and community, even after they were divided into twelve tribes. This was specifically expressed by the two and a half tribes that chose to reside east of the Jordan River wanting to make it abundantly clear that they were still part of the nation (Josh 22). Division was a direct judgment of God on Israel for their sins (1Ki 11-12). Ten of the twelve tribes split and became a separate nation called Israel, and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin became the nation of Judah. They were never the same. God warned Israel that if they continued in sin, He would send their enemies to destroy their nation, but if they repented He would restore them (Lev 26, Deut 28, 1Ki 8). Jeremiah prophesied that this judgment was imminent. It would be by the hand of Babylon. The land would lay desolate for 70 years, and after that God would revive the nation (Jer 25:11-12, Jer 29:10). Daniel read this prophecy. That is how he knew the restoration was near, and he began to pray for it (Dan 9:1-3). Ezekiel prophesied that when God revived the nation, they would be united as one again and no longer two nations (Eze 37). Jesus said a kingdom or house divided against itself cannot stand (Mt 12:25). This was famously quoted by Abraham Lincoln in a speech about slavery on June 16, 1858.

Unity obviously requires at least two parties. Although the Bible clearly teaches the value of it by the above and many other examples, it also strongly affirms the value of the individual. Throughout the Bible, there is the principle of separation from sin to God called holiness. There must be a distinct separation of the people of God unto a unique set of beliefs and lifestyle. In the Old Testament, this was clearly delineated by the nation of Israel and its separation from the sinful, idolatrous nations of the world (Ex 19:5-6, Lev 20:24, etc.). In the New Testament, it is expressed by the distinction between the church and the world (2Cor 6:14-18, Jam 4:1-4, 1Jn 2:15-17, etc.). However, the Bible does not go further in distinguishing groups from individuals. In fact, it says quite the opposite. Israel was repeatedly commanded to accept foreigners who desired to assimilate into their society, beliefs, and way of life. Two notable examples are Rahab (Josh 2, Josh 6, Mt. 1:5, Heb 11:31, Jam 2:25) and Ruth (Ruth 1-4, Mt 1:5). David was a man who understood this, and had Gentiles intimately involved in his life and administration. He fled from Saul to Achish the king of Gath which was a main Philistine city (1Sam 21:10-15). David fled a second time to Achish who gave him Ziklag to make his home (1Sam 27:1-3). He also went to the king of Moab and asked him to take care of his parents (1Sam 22:3-4). Israel had several battles with Moab both before and after this. Ithmah the Moabite was one of David’s mighty men (1Chr 11:46). David had at least two Hittites in his army – Ahimelech (1Sam 26:6), and Uriah who was one of his mighty men of valor (2Sam 23:39). He was going to fight with Achish’s army against Israel (1Sam 28:1-2, 1Sam 29). David married Maachah the daughter of Talmai the king of Geshur (2Sam 3:3). Hiram the king of Tyre built David’s house (2Sam 5:11). The gift of Toi the king of Hamath to David became part of the materials the temple was built out of (2Sam 8:9-12). The people of Tyre and Sidon (1Chr 22:4) and other Gentiles also provided materials for the temple (1Chr 18:8-11). The Cherethites and Pelethites were Philistine mercenaries who became David’s bodyguards (1Sam 30:14, 2Sam 8:18, 2Sam 15:18, 2Sam 20:7, 1Ki 1:38 & 44, Zeph 2:5). David had a good relationship with Nahash the king of Ammon (2Sam 10:1-19). Israel had several battles with the Ammonites at other times including not long after this (2Sam 12:26-31). Yet Shobi the son of Nahash brought provisions for David and his men when they fled Jerusalem from Absalom (2Sam 17:27-29). Zelek the Ammonite was one of David’s mighty men (1Chr 11:39). On the surface this seems like duplicity, but it actually shows David dealt with people as individuals and not based on what group they could be identified with superficially.

In the New Testament, the distinction between Jew and Gentile no longer determines an individual’s ability to partake of this new covenant (Rom 10:12, Gal 3:28, Col 3:11). Gentile Christians are now able to be part of the people of God (Rom 1:16, Rom 2:9-29, Rom 11). In fact, through water baptism by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, Gentiles can partake of a New Testament form of circumcision (Phil 3:3, Col 2:8-11). Jesus showed us this through such examples as the Roman centurion (Mt 8:5-13), the Syro-Phonecian woman (Mk 7:24-30), and the widow and Naaman (Lk 4:24-27). The Jewish physical circumcision does nothing as far as the new covenant through Christ is concerned (1Cor 7:19, Gal 5:6. Gal 6:15). God instituted this Jewish practice through Abraham (Gen 17:10-14). However, all New Testament believers are the children of Abraham through faith in Christ (Rom 4:9-12). We should remember that God called Abraham as a Gentile from a family of Syrian idolators (Deut 26:5, Josh 24:2). There were no such things as circumcision, Israel, the law of Moses, or Jews yet. In fact, God always started groups with individuals. He started the whole human race with one man – Adam (Gen 1-2). He restarted humanity with Noah (Gen 6-9). He started the nation of Israel with Abraham (Gen 12:1-3). He started the covenant of the law for Israel with Moses (Ex-Deut). He started Israel as the special inhabitants of the promised land with Joshua (Josh 1-24). He established Jerusalem as the capitol city of Israel through David (2Sam 5), and as the site of the temple through his son Solomon (2Sam 7, 2Sam 24). God started the church through one man – His Son Jesus Christ (Jn 3:16, Jn 14:6, Acts 4:12). The Bible recognizes that there are different nations, but even in the book of Revelation which describes the end of this age, they are still divided by languages as they were at the tower of Babel (Rev 7:9, Rev 10:11, Rev 13:7, Rev 17:15). There are no distinct races in the Bible. Rather, God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth”. Blood is common to all men. More specifically, modern science has shown us through DNA that all mankind is much more closely related than some thought. We are all descendants of Adam and Eve and Noah and his wife. Decoding the human genome has proven what the Bible has shown all along. There are no groupings in the Bible based on modern criteria such as skin tone or even culture. There are two cultures according to the scriptures – the church and the world.

There is a great amount of hypocrisy today among some who claim to be proponents of equality and inclusion. They signal their supposed virtue and superiority over Christianity while leveling accusations against it of hatred, division, and classifying people into groups. Yet they exclude anyone who disagrees with their worldview. They are the cancel culture. They are the ones classifying people into groups while John’s vision of the church in heaven shows it to be “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues (Rev 7:9)”. Christianity is the greatest unifier and declassifier of people in the history of the world. It places premium value on the individual (Mt 16:24-27), and it only distinguishes between faith and unbelief. God will judge all men based on whether or not they individually followed His word or not (Jn 12:46-50, Acts 17:30-31, Rev 20:11-15). There will be no other criteria. It is unbelieving man that invents other criteria to judge by. While it is true that not all individuals who call themselves Christians perfectly uphold this ideal, that does not invalidate the word of God. In fact, it confirms it because the Bible clearly addresses the sinful nature of man like no other book or belief system. It even shows the struggle of the early church to accept Gentiles at face value (Acts 10-11, Acts 15, Gal 2). It wasn’t long before the situation reversed and the church became predominantly Gentile.

The men who wrote the founding documents of the United States understood the value of the individual over groups, and they expressed that in many ways including the famous line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. They did not promote socially or governmentally engineered equality of outcomes which has never happened anywhere and never will. They promoted the intrinsic value of the individual and his right to an equal opportunity as others. They understood that this ideal was not perfectly achieved by them, but as Dr. Martin Luther King stated, they had a dream of it. The Bible nor the law promise equal outcomes. That idea destroys the concept of the individual. God and right human systems award and punish individuals based on their behavior. Groupthink is not healthy for the individual or any group of individuals. “Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Cohesiveness, or the desire for cohesiveness, in a group may produce a tendency among its members to agree at all costs. This causes the group to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation ("Leadership Glossary: Essential Terms for the 21st Century". Choice Reviews Online. 52 (11): 52–5672-52-5672. 2015-06-18. doi:10.5860/choice.190440. ISSN 0009-4978. "Organisational behaviour - Docsity". Retrieved 2020-05-27.

"Groupthink". Ethics Unwrapped. Retrieved 2020-05-27.)”

We must never forget that all groups are made of individuals which were uniquely made by God. Our personalities, experiences, abilities and weaknesses, and our bodies are all special and hold unique importance. The church is a body made up of many parts (Rom 12, 1Cor 12). So is any group. Any attempt to blur that is not of God. The individual must hold supreme value. That does not mean that individuals should shun all commonly held values and goals just because they are commonly held in a community such as a church just for the sake of individuality. That is the other extreme which is also unhealthy. God meant for us to work together as individuals in communities despite their size – from a marriage of two people to a local church or town to a nation of hundreds of millions – with each person contributing to the whole.

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