Chapter 14: Strengthening the Individual
Christianity has been in a state of increasing division since its inception. Consider the 2nd century observation of the Greek philosopher Celsus who wrote that Christians “…slander one another with dreadful and unspeakable words of abuse. And they would not make even the least concession to reach agreement; for they utterly detest each other.” Although a known opponent of early Christianity, the words of Celsus ring true to this very day causing one to ask… How is Christianity to Unite?
The four chapters of Section 4 answer the question by examining the unification process from the smallest unit of Christianity—the individual—to incrementally larger units including the family, church and community. This is a concept Shuster calls the Model of Christian Unity. As each unit is strengthened spiritually the impact on society is not merely cumulative, but rather exponential as a result of spiritual synergy.
The desire of Jesus Christ in the unification of his disciples was the subject of his heartfelt prayer to God the Father when he pleaded “that they may be made perfect in one,” with Christ dwelling within the disciple and God dwelling within the Savior (John 17:23). Each of the four chapters examines the Biblical case for strengthening the entity along with the forces that divide and unite.
The most basic unit in the kingdom of God is the individual comprising the first rung in the Model of Christian Unity. The Savior said “I am the vine, ye are the branches,” and as branches nourished from the same vine we are to “bringeth forth much fruit: for without me [Jesus Christ] ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The cornerstone scripture for strengthening the individual comes from Luke 22:32 with Jesus telling Peter “…when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” In this passage the Savior teaches a profound yet simple lesson that those who are converted are to strengthen those who are not. Because conversion is a continual process it may be more accurate to say that those who are more mature in their conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ (along the Christian Continuum) should lift up and help those who are not as far along.
Through the conversion process individuals are strengthened in both faith and works. The 16 Believing attributes and the 16 Practicing attributes from the Chapter 13 exercise are covered in detail allowing participants of the exercise to examine their scores leading to an action plan of improvement.
32 attributes—16 relating to faith (believing) and 16 relating to love and works (practicing)—can easily overwhelm even the strongest of Christians. Just remember, spiritual growth is a journey and not a destination. The prophet Isaiah taught “precept upon precept… line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isa. 28:10). We are all a work in progress on earth laboring on these things everyday with the goal of continuous improvement, not overnight perfection. Next we look at strengthening the family.
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