The Power of the Individual to Disrupt

A grain of wheat remains a solitary grain unless it falls into the ground and dies; but if it dies it bears a rich harvest. — Jesus (John 12:25)

Did you ever notice the power of an individual to disrupt an entire family, church, or organization? One person, remaining solitary, attempting to impose their will on others causes much grief.

Had that person died to self a rich harvest of relationship and full life would have ensued.

Dallas Willard explores “life” in chapter 5 of The Spirit of the Disciplines. He talks about how life is living “beyond.” Jesus describes life beyond self in the saying I quoted.

We might think that we are solitary actors. “We have the right to do as we please” is the American mantra. Somehow we took the “Wild West” of what has been described as “rugged individualists” and translated it to the modern world. It’s Clint Eastwood as the man with no name in the Italian Cowboy movies translated to Dirty Harry. Many of my friends pack weapons and fantasize themselves as a version of Dirty Harry.

But our actions go beyond us. If we actually shoot and kill someone, that impacts a wide range of people.

Last week in Dayton, Ohio, a man drove the wrong way on the freeway and crashed head-on into another car. Five people were killed. It is suspected that the man was suicidal. If true, he was living in his solitary grain of wheat but four other people lost their lives and hundreds of lives were deeply affected.

However, Jesus describes other people who die to themselves and create a rich harvest. This is not describing some far off event in heaven or something. Developmental psychologists have described how a normal person develops from the “me” of a 2-year-old into a mature human who recognizes the needs and desires of others outside the body.

Jesus didn’t say what we ought to do in that saying directly. But the development is clear. Some mature people die to themselves and create a rich harvest. Others are solitary. Our question–which are we?


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