Monday, September 17, 2012

Looking at the Small Picture

When a town is about to be flooded, everyone turns out and helps to fill sandbags to hold back the floodwaters. When a battle is about to be engaged, each man in the army picks up his weapon and does what he has been trained to do. When a large choir is about to sing, everyone stands up and sings with his or her one voice to make beautiful music together. In each of these events, each individual is needed in a small way to do his or her small part. In each of these events, if one person did not come there would be little difference in how bags were filled, or the outcome of the entire battle, or the beauty of the one musical sound. In each of these events, it is a temptation for the one individual to say to himself or herself, "I do not matter so much that if I do not do my part, the outcome will not change." This is looking at the small picture.

There is a way in which the individual is correct. One person will not make much difference. However, in all of these activities, it is a group of individuals together that makes the difference. It is for the common good that people work together to stop a flood, or win a battle. It is for the common good that each individual sings to make beauty. When we just look at ourselves, we lose the big picture and only see a picture of ourselves. We lose the vision of working for the common good--a good that may mean a great deal to us as individuals. People can exhaust themselves filling sand bags. People can die in battle. People can go unnoticed in a big choral event. When we lose the big picture, our concerns become indifferent, and selfish at the worst.

Christians should recognize that they are, by faith, thrown into a great spiritual battle. Often we forget that the  eternal outcome of the battle is already determined. We will be victorious. But while we are still present in time, the cost of the battle that we are in, and the outcome of our particular skirmishes depends on our efforts. Battles are not won by people doing their own thing. They are won by coordinated effort. A division of soldiers that decides not to obey orders and pick their own fight, endangers themselves, but also the other soldiers they have split from. They may think they are doing damage to the enemy, but because their efforts are broken off from the main army and uncoordinated, they are submitting to the "divide and conquer" rule.

Elections are coming up. You may be thinking to yourself--my vote will make no difference. It hardly matters. You are right, only if you are the only one in the fray to put down their single weapon and go home. If you just look at your small picture, like many others tempted to do so, the big picture will get grim indeed.

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