One of the main characteristics of our culture is individualism. Charles Taylor, a Canadian philosopher, write about the construction of modern identity and the secular age. He says that we live in an age of authenticity. In this age, each individual has this own way to set his framework of living. What is matters is our true emotions and feelings. Taylor also says in his book ‘Sources of the Self’ that the self is constituted by your own interpretations. In the age of authenticity, the starting point is set by ourselves.
In another hand, the self needs to be set in a broader context. Taylor says about this needing and the desire for the modern individuals to find a place in some story. These stories (or story) helps them to make or realize their own stories. In this context, all of us have a challenge to face: What is our story? What is the framework that will help us to understand our place in this world?
In an episode from This is Us, a drama series from NBC, we see Kevin Pearson, one of the main characters, talking to his nieces about a painting. In his speech, Kevin tells the story of their family and how they can find a place in this story. At some point Kevin does an interesting rhetorical question: “And I start to think… what if we are all in the painting everywhere?”. I believe that this question helps us understand what is our painting (a name equivalent to story here) and what we need to do with this painting.
The Bible offers to us a painting. This book is being read through generations and has set the life of many persons around the ages. So, I want to make three brief assumptions about our work with the biblical story that face the challenges of individualistic modern identity and help us to understand our role.
The first is: we need a comprehension. As Kevin encourages his nieces, we need to understand that our life is not set by our individualistic views but we live in a major context and this context, in the biblical story, is determined by the Kingdom of God. Michael Goheen show in his book a six acts structure that carries us to understand what is the biblical story. This story is about a kingdom established by the only true God. If we comprehend this, we will understand that our sense of identity needs to be so far from ourselves, at least in the starting point.
The second is: we need action. To know is not sufficient. If we have the comprehension that the biblical story is the story, we need now to live in this story. We have a role to develop. Although the sense of identity is so far from ourselves, the needing for action put us to respond and interacts with this story.
And the last one: we need to do an invitation. Lesslie Newbigin called this as a missionary encounter. This is our participation and action now. We need to understand our missional identity in the pages of the bible and we have the opportunity to show and make know the biblical story. Our action is predicted and desired by the biblical story.
In an individualistic society that wants to find some meaning and purpose, we have the task to show a coherent story about reality. We need to know our place in this story, accept the call to action in this story, and do an invitation for the people around us. That is how we put colors on the painting of God.