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The Crises of Our Day and the Power of Community

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Friday, November 13, 2020
Group of happy people, the power of community

The Crises of Our Day and the Power of Community


With all the bad health news in the news, I thought we should start today with some good news: chili pepper consumption could help you live longer.

The American Heart Association reports that regular chili pepper consumers could have longer lifespans due to the fruit’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and blood-glucose regulating properties. These factors help reduce a person’s risk of death from cardiovascular disease or cancer.

New guidelines for Thanksgiving

Now to the bad news: The recent coronavirus outbreak is breaking records across the US. California just became the second state to surpass one million COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic, following Texas, which hit the milestone earlier in the week. Funeral homes and hospitals are bracing for new waves of infections and deaths as experts warn that we are entering our worst phase in the pandemic.

Even if the Pfizer vaccine is available by the end of the year, most people will not receive it until well into next year. Shipping the vaccine will be difficult and expensive, especially for rural hospitals that cannot afford ultra-cold freezers.

It is therefore vital that we maintain vigilance this winter. New guidance from the CDC reports that wearing a mask protects us and those around us from coronavirus transmission, reducing the risk by more than 70 percent in various instances.

According to the CDC, “adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation.” The CDC has also issued new guidelines for Thanksgiving which especially emphasize such precautions for the holidays.

How we got here

We can do so much more together than we can apart. Safety in a pandemic depends largely on keeping each other safe. The same is true of nearly every dimension of life, from driving a car to bridging partisan divides to engaging in social media—when we work with each other for each other, everyone benefits.

However, our mutual interconnectedness directly contradicts the self-centeredness that is central to Western culture. As we noted yesterday, our society has insisted for millennia that life centers on the individual. From religion to politics to economics, I filter the world through a lens that focuses on what is best for me. You do the same. It’s the way we are socialized to think.

Writing for the Public Discourse, biblical scholar Carl R. Trueman notes: “The notions that human flourishing is found primarily in an inner sense of well-being, that authenticity is found in being able to act outwardly as one feels inwardly, and that who we are is largely a matter of personal choice not external imposition, are intuitions we all share.”

Building on this individualism, secularism has demoted “the notion of transcendent human nature” and rendered our purpose as “the attaining of personal psychological happiness in whatever form happens to work for the individual concerned.” Trueman brilliantly shows how Freud’s theories and Marxist thinkers such as Herbert Marcuse and Wilhelm Reich have convinced many that we must reject the social conformity imposed by traditional family structures and embrace sexual liberation in any and all its expressions.

We are told that unless we affirm each person’s individual choices, we are denying their sense of self. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion must be subsumed to this pathological “new normal.”

The path forward

How should Christians respond? Trueman accurately forecasts a future rife with fragmentation. In such a day, “only by modeling true community, oriented toward the transcendent, can the church show a rapidly destabilizing world of expressive individuals that there is something greater, more solid, and more lasting than the immediate satisfaction of personal desires.” 

In other words, whether we are confronting the coronavirus pandemic, responding to political divisions, or offering our culture an alternative to the radical existentialism of our day, we are best when we are together.

Early Christians are our model with their passionate commitment to Jesus and to each other. They “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Consequently, in contrast to the selfish materialism of their day, “all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (vv. 44–45).

As they were “praising God and having favor with all the people,” the result was that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (v. 47). (For more, see my latest video, “What does the Bible say about Christian unity?” and my sermon on unity from Acts 4.)

Three steps to a better future

We can choose the self-centered existentialistic ethos of our culture or we can choose to serve the common good by serving together. Let’s take these biblical steps to a better future:

One: Identify your personal ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). Learn your spiritual gifts, consult with trusted friends, and determine the calling of God on your life. For help discovering your spiritual gifts, I invite you to utilize this tool on our website.

Two: Discover ways you can serve better with others (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Ask God to show you the team with whom he intends you to shape our culture for Jesus.

Three: Measure success by faithfulness. A small amount of salt can make a transforming difference (Matthew 5:13). As you serve Jesus by serving with his people, the Spirit uses you to make an eternal difference in your temporal world.

Scripture is clear: “All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9).

Will you “obtain a blessing” today?

NOTE: Where do you find hope in hard times? Jesus’ parables offer us a guide to hopeful living. Read more in my just-released book, Bright Hope for Tomorrow: How Jesus’ Parables Illuminate Our Darkest Days. Please request our newest book, Bright Hope for Tomorrow, today.

Publication date: Novebmer 13, 2020

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For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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