Summary: A new set of equations to help us understand the importance of Christian Community.
The book of Ecclesiastes is the reflection of an old man who had examined his life and the lives of those around him. As the author reflected on man, he discovered that people pursue many things that are without value or meaning. Knowing that he was approaching the end of his journey, the author sought to teach younger men that many things which for a time seem to be valuable are really “meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
The author concluded that only a life that is lived for Christ has any meaning. Anything else is without any merit or value. Today, I would like to look with you at one of the things this wise authored identified as meaningless, and show you how you can escape the vortex of a meaningless existence and life a life of value. To begin, please notice that the author said that life without proper connection is meaningless. King Solomon demonstrated this fact through some interesting mathematics. I want you to consider this new math, and apply it to your life.
i. Ecclesiastes 4:7,8 says, “Again, I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother.”
ii. The author says that it is meaningless to live a life of isolation.
Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says
The Number of People Who Say They Have No One to Confide In Has Risen
By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 23, 2006; Page A03
Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.
A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two.
The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties -- once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits -- are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone.
"That image of people on roofs after Katrina resonates with me, because those people did not know someone with a car," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who helped conduct the study. "There really is less of a safety net of close friends and confidants."
If close social relationships support people in the same way that beams hold up buildings, more and more Americans appear to be dependent on a single beam.
Compared with 1985, nearly 50 percent more people in 2004 reported that their spouse is the only person they can confide in. But if people face trouble in that relationship, or if a spouse falls sick, that means these people have no one to turn to for help, Smith-Lovin said.
"We know these close ties are what people depend on in bad times," she said. "We’re not saying people are completely isolated. They may have 600 friends on Facebook.com [a popular networking Web site] and e-mail 25 people a day, but they are not discussing matters that are personally important."
The natural reaction to a lack of connection is to retreat to the safety of superficial conversations and limited personal contact. To protect ourselves against further pain by guarding our emotions, not letting ourselves care too much or reveal too much. Paul Simon put those feelings into words in his song, "I Am a Rock":
I’ve built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock. I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain.
And an island never cries.
A rock feels no pain. An island never cries. But it never rejoices, either, or feels happiness, or contentment, or love. Instinctively, we know that’s the way of death, not life.
Loneliness is a warning light on the dash board of your life that confirms that you are running low on the primary fuel you need: connection.
i. But there is more. The author also says that the isolation leads to exhaustion. Verse 8 continues, “There was no end to his toil...”
ii. “The heart of Christian development has long been a relationship between someone who has something to learn and someone who has something to share. In the context of such a relationship, a synergy develops that accelerates and enhances growth. Synergy is the energy or force that is generated through the working together of various parts or processes. For example, two horses can pull about nine thousand pounds, but through the power created by adding more horses, four horses can pull over thirty thousand pounds.” (James Emery White, Rethinking the Church, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997, p. 62).