I am struck more and more at the focus in the Scriptures on the church as a whole in comparison to us as individuals. Somehow I missed it for most of my life. No doubt, we are addressed as individuals and are called, each one, to follow Christ. We obviously can’t just be swept along and saved because of someone else’s faith. We are each called to have faith; each called to obey. Yet “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…for the body does not consist of one member but of many.” Even in the Old Testament, which in so many ways was a shadow of what was to come, God deals with the children of Israel as a whole. There are individuals in the OT through whom God speaks to the people, but the Jews, as a nation, were his “inheritance,” his “heritage.” Not one individual, but the nation.
When we are baptized into his body, we lose our old identity. We gain a new one. We are no longer lost, but found. We are no longer individual sinners “digging our own wells” and worshiping created things. We are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” living for and serving God. All three of those words: race, priesthood, nation, describe a group or a body of people. If I am saved, then I am a priest, yes. But I am a priest within a priesthood. I am supernaturally linked to each and every believer in Jesus Christ. Whether I realize it or not, whether I act like it or not, whether I like it or not, I am no longer a maverick. I am an integral part of Christ’s eternal church. I am not on a secret, reconnaissance mission just between me and God. I don’t have special orders from him and I am not his favored soldier.
We have many and bountiful blessings because we are Americans. But one disadvantage we may experience as Americans is the rugged individualism that has been hammered into our culture and our brains. This mindset, sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle, encompasses thoughts like, “I will do it all by myself,” “I keep my cards close to my chest,” “If she wants help, she can ask,” “Her sin (or spiritual sickness) does not affect me.”
We have lived a life of independent self-will but upon receiving salvation and growing in sanctification, we are to live out our oneness. That should be the focus and the direction of our lives. But if we aren’t aware these truths, or if we deny them, we will not have the right focus, and not only will the church suffer, we will suffer. My new identity now stems from oneness with God through Christ having received his Spirit to dwell in me. BUT there is more. This new identity also includes me losing myself, denying myself, and no longer living independently, smug in my relationship with God, but interdependently with the body of Christ.