Individualism | In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville came to America at the age of 25. Although he was impressed by the country’s enormous freedom of association, he was also troubled by its deep strain of individualism. He wrote, “Such folk owe no man anything and hardly expect anything from anybody. They form the habit of thinking of themselves in isolation and imagine that their whole destiny is in their own hands. Thus, not only does democracy make men forget their ancestors, but also clouds their view of their descendants and isolates them from their contemporaries. Each man is forever thrown back on himself alone, and there is danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own heart” .
Community | Nearly 180 years have passed, but American individualism has remained. In this culture, however, the church is called to be counter-cultural, embracing covenantal community and mutual commitment. As Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father” . Indeed, our love for one another is the essence of holiness and, without holiness, it’s impossible to see God .
Church | We can be counter-cultural by pursuing covenantal community with the church. Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “I go to church, not because of any legalistic or moralistic reasons, but … for the same reason that I wear a wedding ring: a public witness of a private commitment” . And we do this in spite of the church’s imperfections. Paul acknowledged that the Thessalonians had work to do when he asked God to make them “increase and abound” in love. And elsewhere Paul promised that God would continue doing this good work in us until the day of Christ .
Prayer | Lord, Our culture celebrates individualism and perfection, but you cherish covenantal community that is comprised of a bunch of sinners in need of you. We confess, however, that we have been influenced by our culture and its false promises to make us free through individualism and perfection. Instead, root us in your promises. Establish us in your church, which is the bride of Christ. And let us commit to love others who are sinners just like us so that we are not “shut up in the solitude of our own hearts”. Amen.
 Alexis de Tocqueville. Democracy in America, HarperCollins, 2000. p. 508. |  1 Thess. 3:11-13 ESV |  See Heb. 12:14. |  See also Redeemer Presbyterian: Why Church Membership? |  See Phil. 1:6