From Pastor Brady
Tribalism is an attitude or behavior that stems from favoring your own group. We love groups. We love being in groups. Our family. Our church. Our political party. Our theology. Our religious practices. Our religious preferences. Our age. Our sexuality. Our race. Our wealth. Our ideology. Our hair color. Our body type. Our education. Our….(you get the idea). Almost anything can turn into tribalism.
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7
Tribalism becomes dangerous when we find our identity in the group and our purpose in the welfare of our group alone. In Jeremiah 29:7 God is telling the Jewish exiles to abandon their tribalism. In the New Testament, God sent Paul to the Gentiles, and he then spent many years fighting against the Jewish tribalism that sought to replace the gospel with law for those same Gentiles.
Tribalism almost always leads to isolation. We isolate ourselves according to our groups. “Birds of a feather flock together.” Often it is disguised as purity (especially in religious contexts). We read “be not conformed to the world,” and decide to avoid the world through isolation, rather than “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.”
I grew up in a very isolationist Christian culture. Christians should only listen to “Christian music,” watch “Christian movies,” attend “Christian schools,” and pretty much only have “Christian friends” (except the one unbeliever that we have as our project).
Family can become a source of isolationist thinking too. Those of you with young children may avoid church and cultural engagement because you are protecting “family time.” You may keep your teenagers away from youth group or other community activities for fear of bad influencers. We have made the family an idol and our source of identity. It is our tribe. We have missed the truth that under the New Covenant we are called to build the spiritual family of God (the church) in order to impact culture and community around us, bringing others to Christ. And we have missed that our biological families are a special and beautiful gift God has given us for that purpose. Rather we see the church and community as God’s gift to us to help us build our families instead of the other way around.
Within the church itself we must be careful not to isolate. Older generation together. Younger generation together. No mixing. There is value in meeting with those in the same life stage as you, but it should always be for the purpose of reaching those outside of your tribe. The Ambassadors Bible Study should be empowering the older generation to reach the younger. Our new Young Adult gathering should be empowering the Millennials to serve the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.
Within our city and culture we must also avoid isolationism. God does not call us to condemn the culture. Even Jesus said that he did not come to condemn- it wasn’t necessary because it was already done. Rather he came to serve and give his life for others.
How Not To Isolate
I believe that we are called to incarnate into our communities, neighborhoods, workplaces, families, and culture at large. We can do this in little and big ways.
Little Ways– The Christian life is seeds not boulders. It is making a difference with one small act at a time. It is moving in and looking for ways to love the person next to you. Be a good employee. Invite neighbors over for dinner. Be polite in line or in traffic. Be helpful. Pick up trash. Serve the homeless. Join a small group or Fight Club in order to know a couple other people really deeply. Take a college student to lunch. Hold a crying baby. Love a child.
And then in the midst of doing these things, be ready to share the reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)- more on that in weeks to come.
Big Ways– Sometimes God gives us a chance to be a Joseph, or a Daniel, or an Esther, or a Nehemiah. He gives us the king’s ear. He puts us in a place of influence. Government jobs, military service, police officer, manager of a business, owner of a business, doctor, scientist, pastor, teacher, professor, policy maker, parent, big brother, big sister, mentor, politician, coach, entrepreneur, athlete, musician, artist, writer, reporter, etc.
Christians should bring the culture of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ into the culture of the world around you. Not assimilating or isolating, but incarnating. We need Christian researchers, writers, artists, politicians, TV producers, teachers, etc. entering into the world around us with the good news of the “hope that lies within us.” That hope is not in what we do. It is not in our tribe. It is not in ourselves or the beauty we create. It is not in our intellect, or our power, or abilities. It is not in our country or ideology. It is in Jesus Christ; for He is the creator of all these things and the true lover of your soul. He alone is big enough to offer you an unmoving, everlasting identity. He is the one under whom, all things have existence and meaning.