Sermons

Summary: The aloneness that has become a hallmark of our modern age presents a great opportunity for the people of God to present the message of life. As Christ calls people to rest in Him, the churches must echo that call.

“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [1]

Robert Putnam raised a red flag for people living in this modern world with what he wrote in a 1995 essay that was subsequently published in book form. The title of the essay was, “Bowling Alone.” In his essay, Putnam noticed that while more Americans than ever before were bowling, the number of bowling leagues was declining. People were bowling alone. Similarly, fewer Americans were attending school board or town meetings, volunteering or even getting together with their neighbors. And this was long before the isolating effects of internet, social media and cell phones! I doubt that back in 1995 Putnam could have imagined a family of four—mom, dad, sister and brother—dining together at a restaurant, but each one staring into their own mobile devices; but you have witnessed this, and so have I.

America’s suicide rate is out of control. How bad is America’s suicide problem? Well, it’s so bad that Americans’ overall life expectancy has declined for the first time since the 1930s. Aaron Kheriaty writes in “First Things” that the suicide crisis in America has reached epidemic proportions. Rates are growing coast to coast, in rural and urban areas, among the poor and the rich, the young and the old. In his article, Kheriaty, director of the Medical Ethics Program at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, describes a witch’s brew of factors behind this epidemic of death: social fragmentation, an overall decrease in religious involvement, utilitarianism, and—yes—the growth of assisted suicide laws. However, in the final analysis, Kheriaty boils the problem down to one word: Despair. Despair, as in the utter lack of hope. [2]

Kheriaty concludes his thought-provoking article by relating the account of a suicide. A man in his thirties took his life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He was one of over fifteen hundred people who have jumped from the bridge since it was built. Kheriaty writes, “After his death, his ¬psychiatrist went with the medical examiner to the man’s apartment, where they found his diary. The last entry, ¬written just hours before he died, said, ‘I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.’” That is heart-breaking!

Isolation breeds loneliness. And loneliness can be a major factor behind depression, which in turn can set people on the road to self-annihilation. Now, Kheriaty notes that clinical depression can and does have chemical causes as well, but, as he writes, “Your serotonin and dopamine levels may be out of kilter, but you may still have a problem with your Tinder compulsion and dinners alone in front of the television.” [3] So, while depression can be a serious mental illness that needs medical and psychological treatment, aloneness is curable.

Think about what I just said: “Aloneness is curable.” Since aloneness is curable, why are not churches acting on this knowledge? Why are we Christians not shouting out to the lonely? We are taught to be compassionate. Should we not be concerned for the welfare of those who are lonely? Why do we hesitate to shout out to lonely people, “Come join us! Warmth, friendship and comfort are available here with us!” Isn’t that what Jesus is saying when He says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Shouldn’t we, of all people, have a message that invites lonely people to find meaning in Christ the Lord?

THERE IS A FRIEND WHO STICKS CLOSER THAN A BROTHER. What I have to say in this particular point is said for the benefit of Christians to encourage them to call the lonely to find comfort and help in Christ the Lord. No one should take it as merely incidental that what I have to say is an immediate call to all who are outside of Christ to come to Him. While encouraging Christians to call people to life in the Saviour, I am confident that some who have yet to know the Son of God will find life. What I have to say, therefore, is meant to encourage fellow believers to invite lonely people to Christ and to call outsiders to life in the Risen Son of God.

Among my favourite proverbs is that one which asserts:

“A man of many companions may come to ruin,

but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

[PROVERBS 18:24]

The Proverb is a favourite in great measure because it points to Someone who never deserts us. This saying of the Wise Man speaks of One who is more than a big brother, Someone who is greater than anyone we could know on this earth, Someone who is ever present regardless of how I may feel. And that is the need each of us realises, whether we are able to articulate the need or not. Let’s take a few moments to refresh our memories of some the promises given by the Master—promises that speak of His presence with us.

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