Individualism and “one another”

09 Oct

This post is link eight in a chain blog initiated by Alan Knox on the topic of “one another.”

The following article is by:  Pieter Pretorius

Individualism and “one another”
Rm 12:10 (ESV) Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (BBE – “putting others before yourselves in honour”).

It’s two such simple words “one another” but we are struggling to put it to practice. Even Rm 12:10 is difficult to translate into deeds. Through the Lord’s grace I want to bring something to the fore that is very difficult for us Westerners to really do, namely to recon ourselves dead to our individualistic lifestyles. When the Lord started pointing this out to me I struggled getting my mind around it. Everybody around us lives like this so we feel so at home living individualistically. I decide what I want to do with my life. As a good Christian I do it prayerfully and I am for the most part willing to follow the Spirit’s lead, but it is basically I who call the shots. Isn’t this the main reason why we have difficulty accommodating one another? Let me explain.

Through my contact with our local Indian (Asian) community I started seeing how selfless they are in comparison to us Westerners. The father lost his eldest son through an accident. When the youngest (only) son expressed his desire to become a pilot in the air force, his father forbade him to do it because it is too dangerous. The risk of losing his only remaining son is too great. His father wanted him to be a medical doctor. Dutifully, and in obedience he gave up his dream and became a doctor. It took me a while to overcome the inward rebellion I experienced. All of my individualism shouted against this unfair demand from the father.

Especially the lives of the Muslims are directed by the umma (community). The community forms and shapes the father’s decisions in directing his children’s lives. Thus in actual fact the umma has the final say in what an individual is planning. The result is that they do not even consider making individual plans.

In living out the “one another” directives of the Lord we need to focus on “putting others before yourselves in honour” in the (Christian) community. The most effective way to do that is to have a servant attitude. Our best example for this is our Lord. Jesus did not wait for a slave to turn up, but washed the feet of his disciples himself thereby setting the example for us to follow (Jn 13:14-15). But the real neat part is that it is not our own effort, because Jesus is living his life in us. When we keep our eyes on Him (in us) then we are able to recon ourselves dead to our individualism and to recon ourselves dead to self. We yield our self to him moment by moment.

The Lord knows how easily we loose focus therefore he encourages us: “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Rm 12:11) by serving one another. “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight” (Rm 12:16). It sounds easy on paper, but it is a tall order to humble yourself and actually live this way. Boy, how I battle with Ga 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith [trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (ESV). I can really appreciate the exhortation of Heb10:24 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

Isn’t the greatest key to community life emptying ourselves of individualism, self and laying our lives down for one another?

 Links in the ‘One Another’ Chain Blog
  1. Chain Blog: One Another – Alan Knox
  2. Linking One Another – Swanny
  3. What Does It Mean to Love One Another? – Chuck McKnight
  4. The treasure of ‘One Another’ – Jim Puntney
  5. This is how the world shall recognise you… – Kathleen Ward
  6. Accepting one another in love – Chris Jefferies
  7. One Another: A meta-narrative for the church- Greg Gamble

Chain Blog Rules

  1. If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
  2. Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both this post and the other link posts in the chain).
  3. When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

Posted by on October 9, 2012 in Uncategorized


22 responses to “Individualism and “one another”

  1. Alan Knox

    October 9, 2012 at 8:06 pm


    Thank you for taking part in the chain blog. And, this is certain an awesome and challenging post. You’re absolutely right – as long as we focus on ourselves, the “one anothers” become almost useless exercises as doing “just enough”… But, when we put others before ourselves, then the “one anothers” become second nature… our spiritual nature in Christ.



  2. Jeremy Myers

    October 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm


    You are so right that we westerners need to put to death our individualism. God has really been working on me a lot recently about this. I blame some of it on my own introverted personality.

    Any suggestions for how an introvert like me (who feels most comfortable when I am alone in my study with my books) can reach out to put the “one anothers” into practice?

    Oh, and by the way, I would like to keep the blog chain going. I will put up a post tomorrow. The link will be:


  3. jimpuntney

    October 11, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Jason, Jeremy is at bat, and you are in the on deck circle. Thanks Jeremy for sharing the Life that is within you. We are all looking forward to your comments. And Jason the same applies to you my brother.


  4. Alan Knox

    October 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Awesome! I’m looking forward to the new posts in this chain blog!


  5. Chris J

    October 12, 2012 at 5:21 am

    I love what you wrote here, Pieter. It seems to me that individualism is a disease of western nations. It underlies almost everything we think and do. We see ourselves as fundamentally individual and community as an optional extra.

    Thanks for laying it out clearly in your post.


  6. jimpuntney

    October 12, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Thank you Pieter for sharing the Life that is within you. Your focus upon individualism is truly a disease we see prevalent today in my “neck of the woods”. I echo Jeremy’s comments on suggestions on how to overcome our “John Wayne” like individualism.

    Thanks Alan for cooking this idea, I love the response, we just keep rolin rollin rollin this theme.

    As Jeremy has posted the next link in the chain is at:


  7. Chuck McKnight

    October 12, 2012 at 9:26 am

    This is a great post, Pieter! I think this concept of communal living is especially hard for us westerners to grasp because we have become so infected by the “American dream.” We must make a very deliberate effort in Christ to overcome our individualism.


  8. Pieterlz

    October 15, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Thank you for all the appreciative responses. Individualism is a subject that I am struggling with so it is foremost in my mind.
    Jeremy don’t feel alone. When I was about your age I was also quite introverted. As Jesus led me forward I gradually overcame it. But even today I am comfortable being on my own. Perhaps the solution is to purposely reach out to people, making it a point to just greet and to be sensitive for their needs. But I must say for me it is an effort to do that. It doesn’t come naturally. To make matters worse I was virtually an only child, my brother is six years younger than me. :-)



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