Wednesday, April 4, 2012

In Context

One of the core ideas that is inherent in individualistic cultures is the righteousness of human agency. We tend to think that a person who has ability and a little moxy should be able to succeed in any walk of life. Our heroes are people like Abraham Lincoln, who is said to have risen from humble beginnings to become one of the most beloved presidents and the one who put an end to the injustice of slavery.
Upon further inspection of Lincoln’s Wikipedia article, you can see that some of these aspects of Lincoln’s life were not accidental or solely due to his agency. It says that Lincoln attended a “Separate Baptist” church which opposed slavery. His father also moved their family from Kentucky to Indiana partly because of his father’s opposition to the slavery. It seems like Lincoln’s young life involved many encounters with slavery as well as moral teachings concerning it’s injustice.
In some ways, the life of Paul was not a whole lot unlike the life of Abraham Lincoln. Although he is known for his passionate missionary work, it is not hard to see the hand of God molding his pre-conversion life. His place as a Roman citizen and his Jewish education would later be used for his work. In his biography of Paul, John Pollack suggested even that Paul’s position as a prosecutor of Christians may have resulted in him witnessing the testimonies and devotion of hundreds of Christians prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus. 
When Paul was writing his letter to the church in Corinth, he seems aware of how life is much more than the result of one’s desire and hard work. In the third chapter, he casts himself in the role of only a sower of seeds. Although he worked very hard, he knew that the success of his hard work was always dependent on God’s agency.

In modern individualism, I think it is easy to forget the role of God. We start to blame others (usually) for our failures and credit ourselves for successes. We also start to believe what others say about our ability or lack there of. Although I do not see any harm in learning from mistakes or celebrating our victories, I think it is very important that we acknowledge the hand of God in all of them.