Sebastian Junger wrote a book entitled Tribe. It is a great work about homecoming and belonging particularly effective in explaining why our nation’s veterans tend to suffer so much as they return to a land that itself is messed up. One of Junger’s observations was that when our nation was first colonized the American Indians virtually never left their tribes to become part of the colonists. Conversely, history records that numbers of settlers freely left their towns and cities to join surrounding tribes. Evidently, the tribal egalitarian way of life, the common sharing of possessions, and loyalty to each other attracted people disenchanted with overly-strict rules and the independent-spirit so prevalent among European settlers. Junger admits that tribes were not perfect and were often marked by cruelty and depravity in the manner in which they attacked other tribes. Yet, there was
something about becoming part of their community that was powerfully appealing. Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend in 1753, “When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our customs, if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian ramble with them, there is no persuading him ever to return.” Today the sense of tribe is woefully missing in our society.
1 Peter 2:9—But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
After Jesus returned to heaven His followers zealously followed His mandate to go into all the world and make disciples. Jews and Gentiles in significant numbers left their way of living to join this new, royal priesthood and holy nation that would later be called Christians. Throughout history people worldwide have converted from their religious or non-religious convictions to become followers of Jesus. But when Jesus-followers lose their focus on following Him, their “tribe” is less attractive. Let’s look at what causes this to happen.
First, an obsession with rules. One of the reasons why so many Jews refused to follow Jesus even when He lived amongst them, was their distorted view of the Law and devotion to Moses’ teaching. Their legalism corrupted their messiahconcept. Later in the development of the church the apostles refuted those who insisted on making Gentiles be circumcised as a condition for salvation. Much later, the puritans and early colonists weresolegalistic, they often made life miserable for themselves and therefore unattractive to outsiders. The strict and harsh nature of the Church in England that they fled too often crept back into their own new world practices.
Second, an obsession with affluence. Junger notes in Tribe, “As affluence and urbanization rise in society, rates of depression and suicide tend to go up rather than down.” Possessions do not bring joy nor does the pursuit of wealth, status, and power. Jesus brings joy. When our focus is on Him we are attractive. When our attention is elsewhere we become selfish. As we become busy and obsess in our pursuit of living the good life, we compromise our devotion to Christ that is the best life. Acts 4:32,33 illustrates what this best life looks like:
Now the large group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. And the apostles were giving testimony with great power to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them.
During the settling of America, one missionary was particularly effective in bringing the gospel to the tribes. Tragically, he died fairly young, yet, when we read the words of David Brainerd, we can see that he understood the best life is in the eternal tribe.
“But the way to enjoy the divine presence and to be fitted for distinguishing service for God, is to live a life of great devotion and constant self-dedication to Him; observing the motions and dispositions of our own hearts, whence we may learn the corruptions that lodge there and our constant need of help from God for the performance of the least duty.”—David Brainerd
©2017 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)