Group Morality VS. Godly Judgement

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Becoming a member of a group with a common focus or goal has the ability to radically change, not only man’s outlook and views, but his concept of right and wrong, good and evil, etc. It can indeed rid the soul of its normal sense of guilt, as right and wrong are modified. Some parents have discovered this fact when their young people joined a youth group. Some who previously respected parent's, the church, and God’s authority no longer have the same convictions. If they joined a group whose focus is to have fun and the established rules, facts and truth are what stands in the way of fulfilling their carnal desires, that is then the enemy of the group. Right and wrong are determined by the consensus of the group in respect of its goals. If the goal is pleasure, “It isn’t right for (the authority or rule) to interfere.”
Sigmund Freud, the “father of psychology” and enemy of the Christian faith, spent much time reflecting as to how to overcome the sense of guilt, which he believed to be the product of religious teaching. He commented that “only through the solidarity of all the participants (of a group) could the sense of guilt be assuaged.”
“The child takes on the characteristic behavior of the group in which he is placed . . . he reflects the behavior patterns which are set by the . . . leader of the group” (Kurt Lewin, in A Sociology of Education).
Although it seems strange, “it is usually easier to change individuals formed into a group than to change any one of them separately” according to Kurt Lewin. The individual will naturally resist change to beliefs. However, one who is already a member of a group with a common goal, which all groups have, will automatically have that resistance broken down, as far as attitudes of the group are concerned. I am part of this group, so the outlook and opinions of the group are my outlook and opinions. Too often, not one of the group thoroughly examined these beliefs but took them for granted because they are a part of the group to which he/she belonged. That can be seen in the examples from the Bible, given later.
“One of the most fascinating aspects of group therapy is that everyone is born again, born together in the group.” (Irvin D. Yalom).
Sadly, this does not only apply to youth but can be easily observed among all ages who are part of a group by virtue of common interests.
Adolf Hitler made very effective use of group dynamics with his Hitler Youth groups. Not only was he able to give them a sense of belonging and a cause to support, but he was able to effectively change the moral compass of the youth of his day.
The Bible also records very effective group dynamics and how fast they can influence people without evidence. In Acts 14:18-19, we see the group ready to offer sacrifices to Paul as a god, and in the next verse, they stoned him. Acts 19 tells of a group yelling, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” for hours. Verse 32 says most didn’t even know what it was about. But they would have killed for whatever it was. In these examples, possibly not even one individual really stopped to seriously consider what was morally right or wrong. They were taking up the cause of the group. It gives a sense of “rightness” and belonging, just to be a contributing supporter of the cause. But maybe the cause itself should be carefully considered?
These people were not taking individual responsibility to determine what was morally right and wrong. Too often people don’t, and only function as a group or herd. But the Bible tells us that the time will come when we will all be personally held accountable for what we have done in this life. At that time, what the group believed or did will make no difference.
Israel, as a nation, functioned with strong group dynamics, as we can read in the Kings and Chronicles. When a good king came to power, the nation, in general, turned to the Lord. When an evil king came to power, the nation, in general, turned to idol worship. There were a few exceptions - a few people who thought for themselves - whose allegiance to God was greater than their allegiance to the king or nation.
The Christian church itself is a group, influencing and changing perspectives and morality for the right or the wrong. Dependent on the convictions of the group and leaders, it can be an influence to godly morality, or tragically, to explain away the Bible’s concepts of good and evil.
There should be a major difference between the Christian church and other groups as far as group dynamics work because the Christian church is a group for the express purpose of turning people’s allegiance and faith to Jesus Christ as revealed in His Word, rather than to the group. A church whose goal is to gain converts to itself has failed in its mission. A church that is successful in turning people from all other allegiances to Jesus Christ is a successful church. Allegiance to Jesus includes obedience to His Word, which requires obedience to all authorities, including the church. But the Christian’s obedience to the church is because of his obedience to Jesus, not only because of an allegiance to the church. If a church is successful in turning its members’ faith and focus to Jesus as revealed in His Word, they will be unwilling to allow the church to accept unscriptural modern doctrines, and the church will remain sound in faith.
May each one of us, both collectively and individually, focus our faith on Jesus Christ.
Taken from The Way of Truth
Reprinted by permission