I was right, but for all the wrong reasons.
My first job out of teachers’ college was at a private school as a long-term substitute. I finished out the year for a Social Studies teacher who had walked off the job.
I divided all my classes into teams. On the one hand, I had heard about this during our “how-to” pedagogy courses. On the other hand, I knew most of what they taught us was hype, but it felt instinctively proper. There was something about it that my heart knew had potential. And it was approved by the administrators, though almost no other teacher used the technique.
It turned out okay; the classes were manageable. It does draw on human instinct, but it ran against the brutal juvenile culture in American schools. The only reason it worked was frankly because of my overbearing presence in the classroom. I wasn’t an ogre; I really did encourage independence. Still, I knew that nothing would work in that environment if I didn’t call up all my theatrical skills to present myself as larger than life.
But the important things I learned took a long while to germinate and bear fruit in my soul. What we can learn working in teams like that is more important than what school pretends to teach. People who lack the ability to prosper in a team environment like that seldom accomplish much of what school is supposed to make possible.
Our American culture in particular, and Western culture in general, has this thing backwards. Individual achievement and heroism is just the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Sure, communism steals away one small part of the biblical image here, but still gets it all wrong. We are designed by God to find our meaning for our human existence in the group. Not just any group, not the random herding of a secular society, with it’s pretense of scientific accuracy, but we are designed to find meaning in covenant family units.
Jesus warned that the DNA-based family unit was a fragile model, because you can’t count on everyone in the household embracing the heart-led way. It would be ideal if we could, but it seldom happens in practice. So we prefer a family grouping based on a covenant, something that requires a conscious awareness of what holds us together. The Holy Spirit enables a covenant family to be stronger than mere instincts regarding blood kinship.
The ability to form and commit to a covenant family is the mark of moral maturity. Our greatest human potential outside of Eden is wrapped up in the drive to form a covenant family group and make it work. This is the meaning behind the word shalom as the blessing of God. His revelation points us in that direction as an expression of His divine moral character at work in us.
Right now the members of this virtual parish struggle to experience anything like that in the flesh. Most of us are isolated in a world that rejects everything we embrace, a world that threatens to do to us what it did to Christ. Still, it is critical that we learn this to the point we start longing for it long before it’s even possible. We need to see this as the core reason for our existence in this fallen world. The only reason we stick around is to reflect His glory, and a core element of that is how we fellowship with folks who share any part of our faith.
Individual achievement as this world measures things isn’t going to make it into God’s accounting of our lives. What He will remember is how we sacrificed for the sake of the team to which He leads us as our covenant family. Invest your energy in that vision. Somewhere out there in the future for Radix Fidem is a situation where we can start to form these families called “churches” and experience the reality of our visions and dreams.