Rev. Chip Hammond
We are an isolated people. We live in closed-up, climate-controlled houses. We walk from the house into our enclosed garages, and remotely open the garage door, pulling out in our closed-up climate controlled automobiles. On my own street, a toot of the horn and the wave of the hand to a neighbor at his or her mailbox brings a suddenly intense interest in and scrutiny of the junk mail in hand, which of course precludes having to wave back or even acknowledge your existence. The internet can isolate us for hours from other real people, or real interaction with.
I’ve been struck lately that this isolation is contrary to God’s will for his highest terrestrial creation, man who is made in his image. God himself never was alone. He has always eternally existed in Three Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
When God created the first human being, it was not long before he declared, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18). It may be good to be alone sometimes, to withdraw to a lonely place to pray. In a blessed and busy house, “alone time” may be a necessary occasional luxury. But protracted isolation is a “not good.”
Qoheleth observed, “Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless-- a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:7-12)
Jesus would not suffer his messengers to the work he called them to in isolation. When he sent out the seventy in Luke 10, it was to thirty-five different places, for he sent them in pairs, a practice which tends to halve burdens and double joys. The early Church picked up the practice. No missionary was sent out alone. Paul and others went out at least with one other, sometimes with a whole cadre (see Acts 13:1-5, 13; 15:36-16:6, 27:27; cf. 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1).
Perpetual, continual aloneness seems to be indicated in Jude 13 as a hellish condition. It is not the condition of those who belong to the body of Christ, and are therefore members of one another ( Rom. 12:5).
In the 17th century John Donne wrote, "The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingrafted into the body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author and is one volume. . . No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind . . . ."
Are you discouraged in your work? In your marriage? In your ministry? "A cord of three strands is not easily broken." That means that you and whatever partner you choose will not be successful without God’s help (cf. Ps. 127:1). But it also means that you alone, even with God, are not sufficient. His expressed plan is for your interaction with others. Cut yourself off from others, from those God has given you, be it family, Church, or community, and it will return upon you.
We need each other as well as needing God. It’s God’s design for creation and for his Church. So I’ll end this piece. I’ve been sitting in front of this computer for too long. I think I’ll go call a friend.