Summary: We really do need each other! In a world that is retreating from face-to-face relationships God calls us to come together to share one another’s burden and encourage each other in the faith.
We live in a strange day. A day in which there are more than 6 billion people in the world and yet so few feel like they truly have any real friends. A day in which people are seeking close relationships with people on the internet and shunning the opportunities to get to know those around them. A day in which cyber buddies are attractive because we can be anonymous and face-to-face friendships are scary because they might discover who we “really” are and reject us.
As I was studying Hebrews this past week and reading articles on the Internet about topics like the modern-day phenomenon of “cocooning,” the Lord impressed on my heart the need we have for deep relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ. The Internet may bring us friends from around the world, but it will never provide for us the kind of intimate relationships that God calls us to experience in His Word. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the relationships the Internet offers let me give you some examples.
I know people who are going through difficult times and have found “communities” on the internet that are designed specifically for people like them. If you have some kind of ailment there is a chat room or email list you can join where you can gather or exchange mail with others who have the same kind of ailment. My mother has emphysema and doesn’t get out much, but she gets hundreds of emails a day from her cyber friends who are part of a community called “Efforts,” a group of men and women from around the country who also share her struggle to breath. These folks are very encouraging to my mother, they share their experiences, detail their medical prognosis, the medicines they are taking, and how their day went. If you are looking for advice about your marriage, then there are “love and marriage” communities where you can get more advice than you could ever use. If you are a Star Trek fan and find it difficult to find other Trekkies in your neighborhood or school you can find a whole world of Star Trek fans on the Internet. I have a friend who loves to study the Hebrew Bible – a love that not too many English-speaking Americans can identify with today. My friend has a group of buddies on-line who study Hebrew and then share their thoughts through email. Their love for the Hebrew Bible and their daily exchange of thoughts, ideas, and questions has knit them together as friends, but I would dare say that their friendship falls short of the intimate relationships that our souls yearn for in life.
If the Internet was supposed to bring us together, then why are there so many people in the world feeling a greater sense of alienation and isolation today than in times past? Timothy Morgan wrote in an article called, Making Webheads Of Us All,
Live online chat, all day, every day, has reshaped conversation for tens of millions of people. The chat rooms and message boards of AOL, and indeed, the entire Internet, are redrafting the rules of civil discourse. The biggest human need that chat rooms have met is our deep desire to talk with people like ourselves. Motley Fool, Moms Online, ChristianityToday.com, and thousands of other groups are using communications technology to allow birds of a feather to flock together in cyberspace. Contemporary Americans are experiencing a level of alienation and dislocation unlike any generation before. Parents, children, grandparents, and friends may be strung out across distant time zones that cover the world. Proximity is a lost cause as Americans are drawn into tag-team parenting, commuter marriages, and distance learning. Online chat and e-mail mean that I may know a fellow journalist in Cairo better than the man who lives across the street from me. (Timothy C. Morgan, Making Webheads of Us All, Books and Culture, January/February 1999.)
There is evidence all around us that Americans are retreating from the community of face-to-face relationships and are feeling more and more isolated in their day-to-day life. I read an interesting article this past week from Faith Popcorn, a woman who studies trends in America. Ms. Popcorn has found,
· New surveys show that only 17% of workers want that corner office; a clear
majority would prefer to work in a home office.
· The number of U.S. at-home workers is up 100% in the last 5 years, for a total of
10.1 million. In 20 yrs, 1 in 7 workers will be a full-time telecommuter.
· An old prayer brings this trend home: "Bless these walls so firm and stout,
keeping want and trouble out."
· Gated communities house 4 million Americans and the number is rising.