Summary: Our population is growing at an exponential rate and more and more people are moving into the city centers, yet people have never felt so alone. What can we do to combat the isolation...
We, as a society, seem to constantly be in a hurry. Although we live in a city of 3 million people, walk past tens or possibly hundreds of people everyday, we rarely come into contact with people. Our schedules are packed and rest is something we jam in every chance we get. The office just needs customers contacted, I have to finish 2 term papers for school, we have to rush out and buy the groceries, Johnny has to go to soccer practice and Suzy has ballet. We spend so much time focusing on our own lives that we forget what it is to have a meaningful conversation, let alone a whole relationship. We get used to it just being “ME” and people wonder why there is so much divorce, people don’t know how to communicate or function much further then themselves. We would rather do things alone, mind our own business and not be bothered.
Bowling Alone, a book by Robert D. Putnam gives some very interesting statistics that shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from democratic structures, neighbors, friends, family, and church. The very fabric of our connections with each other has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities. Putnam draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. People bowl alone, play games alone, watch T.V. alone, go to movies alone, eat alone, work alone, study alone, workout alone, spend free time alone, think alone, hurt alone, suffer alone and eventually you wake-up one morning empty, cold and in pain.
God’s model of life doesn’t include anxiety, stress, loneliness or emptiness. It is a model of support, peace, joy and fulfillment. This morning we are going to speak of how we can move from society’s model of life to God’s. It’s not about independence, but dependence. It doesn’t exist in some formula or special equation, when it all boils down it rests in understanding one simple fact, what it means to love.
In Matthew 22:39 Jesus underlines a simple commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself”. It is something some of us have heard a thousand times, but how do we live that out?
It is difficult to imagine a world without anyone else but you, but so often that is how we live. We focus only on our own needs, desires, wants and our own well being. Society tells you that to achieve, to push and to do what you need to do to succeed is to live. That, my friends, is a formula for loneliness, fatigue, stress and eventual destruction. To really live is to love, to share, to have relationships and to be accepted as you are. (Mat. 16:25; John 10:10) Doing does not equal living (skit). Loving equals living, that’s how God wired us. (John 15:9-14) All of scripture is made up of people who gave their love first to God and depended on Him. In turn God gave them the love they needed truly live by giving love to so many others and the understanding that they needed to depend on one another.
Now that we have established that to really live means more than just being active doing things, how can we move toward loving our neighbor? Well the next step is very practical, make opportunity for you to come in contact with people. This is not as difficult as you may think. In fact if you take the time to be perceptive, there are opportunities around you everyday. It may be as simple as bringing someone a coffee or taking to extra seconds and asking the person by the water cooler how they are really doing. You could invite people out for dinner or ask someone over for dessert some night. In Ephesians 5:15-17 Paul encourages us to good and to do it every opportunity we get for that is what God’s will is for us.
This is the one where most people stop and reverse. ‘Whoa, I am not going there’. You see you could be in a group of people eating dinner, laughing together, even singing, but you aren’t really being transparent. We’ve perfected the art of not being vulnerable. We can spend a whole week with people and never reveal anything that’s happening inside. This is where we fail to really love our neighbors as ourselves. We love to appear like we have it together, like nothing is wrong, like we are a strong individual, but it’s a show. Let me let you in on a little secret; nobody is perfect, so why do you have to pretend to be? In fact even as Christians we try to give this impression of super Christian, but Romans 3:23 says we’ve all sinned and failed, but verse 24 says Christ declares us not guilty. If we know that we are forgiven then why can’t we open up to people and let people see that we’re not perfect, but that’s ok. Galatians 6:2 says, “share each other’s troubles and problems others burdens, in this way we obey the law of Christ”. It seems pretty clear that we need to be able to be vulnerable with each other; this is where real relationship starts.