Me Versus We: Part 1, The Plural You

In my recent series on the book of Acts in one of the posts I made the observation that we tend to get confused about Biblical commands because we personalize them. That is, we tend to think in terms of "me" rather than "we."

For generations, Bible scholars have been pointing this out to us, how the "you" we encounter in the New Testament epistles is a plural "you." Commands and exhortations are being directed at the community rather than at individuals.

(By the way, here in Texas we understand this. We say "you" for the singular and "ya'll" for the plural. Outside of Texas, I don't know how anyone can figure this out. "Ya'll" is indispensable.)

The point I made in my last series is that when we read Biblical commands and exhortations we tend to, automatically and unconsciously, think of them as things directed at me and me alone. The radical individualism of our culture--the atomized, isolated ego--has so scarred our imaginations that it never occurs to us that the Bible speaks toward a group, toward a community.

This is important, as I recently pointed out, because Biblical commands and exhortations can become downright toxic or harmful if directed solely at individuals. The issue from my most recent series was Jesus' command "do not worry" from the Sermon on the Mount. When aimed at individuals we find this command almost impossible to obey. As isolated individuals trying to keep afloat in a capitalistic and meritocratic world--where your entire life situation depends upon your performance--how could we not worry?

But Jesus' command isn't aimed at "me", it's aimed at "we," aimed at creating, as we find in Acts 2 and 4, a community where worry becomes irrelevant. Jesus says instead of worrying seek first the kingdom, become the People of God, and all these things will be added to us. Jesus' focus is on we rather than me.

That's one example. And I'd like to share a few more in this series.

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