Saturday, September 13, 2008

Crowded Out

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong… do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.

                        Exodus 23.2 

More! More! More!

We can’t get enough for ourselves. The moment we sink into satisfaction, we rise to look for more. Once we go all the way, we want to go farther. After we say our piece, we keep talking and say too much. We don’t use half of what we have because we’re too busy amassing twice what we need. We should demand “Better! Better! Better!” Instead, we cry “More! More! More!”

We could blame this on basic greed and covetousness, but it’s not so simple. We’ve allowed marketing and media mavens to reduce us from unique individuals to demographic targets. They tell us because “smart people” like what they’re selling, we should, too. They convince us there’s no time to consider its value to us. Get it while it’s hot! They promise we can be trendsetters. The truth? We’re following along like everyone else.

Wrong Turns

Most trends are benign except for this—they lead us to believe we’re defined by what surrounds us rather than what’s in us. As kids, we construct identity by emulating others—“fitting in,” as they say. But how long must that take? “When I was a child,” Paul famously wrote, “I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13.11) Outgrowing childish conformity demands self-knowledge and strength to go with what’s right while the crowd gets bamboozled into wrong turns. It sounds awfully rudimentary. Yet if we know this, why are we often so easily convinced to follow? Isn’t it time we were “crowded out?”

Where Following Leads

By telling Israel “Don’t follow the crowd,” God addressed growing dissent and disbelief brought on by feeling lost in the wilderness. We read of their disobedience now and regard them with ridicule and condescension. That’s because we know the whole story. They didn’t. For example, they didn’t know how Moses’s climb to Sinai’s summit would end. From their perspective, Moses had vanished and left them at a standstill. Without a leader, they fell in step with the crowd—a very bad crowd, it turned out. It’s as true for us as it was for them. Losing sight of our Leader results in a loss of personal conviction. It encourages faith in false gods like success, security, popularity, etc.

Ultimately, God says, following the crowd can lead to injustice. Being “in” creates urgency to force others “out.” Conversely, if I live by my conscience and values, I’ll fight to the end for you to live by yours. Our shared respect takes precedence over our differences. I need you; you need me. But nobody needs the crowd.

Non-conformity isn't about standing out in the crowd; it's about withstanding urges that lead to disobedience and injustice.

(Tomorrow: Our High Priest)

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