Friday, January 10, 2014

the worth of the individual

"One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul." (Acts 16:14 ESV)

In Philippi (Acts 16) Paul encounters three individuals who are influenced by the proclamation of the gospel:  Lydia, a demonized servant girl, and a Roman jailer.  Each individual's story is different, but all experience the power of Christ.

The history of redemption (that is, real history-- the one story that rules them all) focuses largely on individuals.  From the one who disobeyed and cast our planet into darkness (Adam) to the One who restores all (the second Adam, Jesus Christ).  In between there is Abraham, and Jacob, and Joseph, and Moses, and Ruth, and Deborah, and David, and Esther... down to Zacchaeus, Martha, Mary, Bartimaeus, Nicodemus, etc... There is the one lost sheep, the one lost coin, and the prodigal son.  Paul closes his letters with reference to many individuals.  

In studying this passage I came on a number of helpful quotes, regarding the worth of the individual...

“If we could see how precious the human soul is, as Christ saw it, our ministry would approach the effectiveness of Christ’s.” (Phillip Brooks)

“Love is a personal sharing in the destiny of another.” (Quoted by Lorne Sanny, “The Worth of the Individual”)

“There are no ordinary people. You've never talked to a mere mortal.” (C. S. Lewis)

“The Bible, however, has quite a different emphasis: with God there are no little people.” (Francis Schaeffer, No Little People)

“Man’s dignity rests in God who assigns an inestimable worth to every person. Man’s origin is not an accident, but a profoundly intelligent act by One who has eternal value; by One who stamps His own image on each person. God creates men and moves heaven and earth to redeem them when they fall. Our origin is in creation and our destiny is for redemption. Between these points every human heart beat has value.” (R. C. Sproul)

“It is true that historic Christianity is in conflict at many points with the collectivism of the present day; it does emphasize, against the claims of society, the worth of the individual soul. It provides for the individual a refuge from all the fluctuating currents of human opinion, a secret place of meditation where a man can come alone into the presence of God. It does give a man courage to stand, if need be, against the world; it resolutely refuses to make of the individual a mere means to an end, a mere element in the composition of society. It rejects altogether any means of salvation which deals with men in a mass; it brings the individual face to face with his God.”  (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism)

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