When God looked at everything he had created in Genesis there was only one thing he saw and called “not good”—for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). And with all the transformation, progress, and change in human history, our need to be known and loved has never changed nor evolved.
In many ways as a culture and society, we have never been closer or more connected to one another. Only 150 years ago, it was unimaginable to travel around the world in less than 24 hours. And 100 years ago, it seemed impossible to view important events in real time and in living color, from the comfort of your favorite couch. Over 50 years ago, a programmable computer took up the space of a boardroom. And only 15 years ago, the terminology of Twitter, Facebook, and social media were as foreign as the iPhone 5. For the most part, these avenues of connection are a gift! The ability to express and identify ourselves through new mediums and blogosphere are great opportunities for the church to spread the Gospel and reach out to a dying world. However, like many tools, these opportunities can be abused. By substituting the real thing—authentic relationships—for their shadow (how many Facebook friends do you have?), we run the risk of missing out on the very best God has for us.
Some have characterized human relationships in 2013 as “a mile wide and an inch deep.” This is certainly true of those who are thirsty for the kind of community where we can feel at home, truly be our selves, and yet are looking in all the wrong places. (For a much more insightful analysis than I can give, check out Jesse Rice’s The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected are Redefining Communit.y) God not only expresses his dissatisfaction with the isolation of mankind in Genesis, but when He calls His people to eternal life he does so with the understanding that this life is a life together. Jesus sums up the Law by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind—and the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matthew 22:37, 39). Loving my neighbor then is an extension of loving the Lord, and primarily of the love He first showered upon us (1 John 4:19).
The New Testament gives us a beautiful picture of what relationships are meant to look like, and how God fills our need to be loved. Look and listen to Acts 2:42-47 and see if this is not something we all want:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Did you see what characterized harmony and joy in the early church? Devotion to teaching and fellowship, to hospitality and committed time to one another, to mutual concern and compassion, to prayer and tremendous reverence and awe in worship. These are the pillars of true connection and relationship. Sin seeks to separate us from those realities. Sin always promises to fulfill our desires, but it never delivers. Meanwhile, the Gospel sets us free to enjoy exactly what we need: a right relationship with a just and holy God and reconciles us to one another, so that we can be loved as we were intended. But in a culture that is increasingly more self-obsessed, seeking true community in the Church is as essential as ever. In Acts 2, the believers ministered to one another from an over-flowing cup of grace and peace that gave them the joy to consider others as more important than themselves. They were not captive to the temptations of a world that demanded not only their time, but in some cases their life. This they knew because Jesus says,
“ Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom…For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” (Luke 12:32, 34). A person who treasures themselves will be starved for love and relationships. But a person who treasures Christ and one another will have more joy than they can ever imagine. We were made for it.
Lee Hutchings is the Pastor of Discipleship at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland. He and his wife, Diane, are originally from Akron, Ohio.