I confess I feel a little silly with the title of this piece since with many people this would seem a non-issue; however I still believe it’s important to discuss in general, and for three reasons in particular. One, there are many Christians who don’t actively value or pursue relationships; Sunday morning services are enough for them, socializing is too awkward, or perhaps beneath them. Second, tech toys, social media, and the individualization they foster just have a tendency to interfere with and diminish the way people do relationships. And third, something of an exodus is occurring in the western church these days. There are several reasons for this, but a popular one is believers attempting to practice Christian spirituality independent of congregations and the consistent community and accountability they might provide. So silly or not, I think the question is important—why do we need relationships?
I believe God answered this question directly in the beginning. In the early moments of humanity, God observed the man in the garden and declared in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone.”
Having created the universe and everything in it, from physics to matter, galaxies to planets, weather to geology, biology to botany, anatomy to psychology, the physical to the spiritual, He stamped each creation with His approval by declaring it all good. Now, having created one half of humanity, the first thing in universal history to be declared “not good” is perpetual solitude. Though the context here is the need for a suitable helper, I believe it also applies to a broader community of relationships, especially in light of the covenant communities God established and developed throughout history. God doesn’t want us alone. Why not? I believe it comes down to two things: how human beings are designed to function and the responsibilities those functions are designed to serve.
First, the human being functions most efficiently within relationship. If we’re not with anyone, we’re not becoming anyone.
In his book “Creating Community”, Pastor Andy Stanley points out four things that can happen when we are not living in community and cultivating meaningful relationships:
1. We suffer a loss of perspective because no objective voice is keeping us balanced; the lows tend to be lower and the highs tend to be higher.
2. We develop a fear of intimacy, thinking that if others really got to know us, they wouldn’t like us.
3. We breed selfishness; if our lives are defined by our schedule, agenda, needs, and desires, we’ve become disconnected and self-absorbed.
4. We can even develop poorer health, having no accountability around us.
I believe this is completely true simply because I have experienced all four of these realities. I’ve done the cool loner thing, the cynical nonconformist, or the maverick monk. It’s good to differentiate yourself, have alone time, and it’s good to stay true to your own convictions, but you can only take yourself so far; take it from me, going it alone long enough can devastate you as a person.
Secondly, we’re meant to build and equip each other, not just because it enriches how we function, but because those functions have a job to do—we have responsibilities to each other.
The latest covenant community God initiated was the Church. Paul, the missionary who practically organized much of the early Christian community, uses the human body to illustrate how the church interactively functions (1 Corinthians 12). Look at your body right now and list how many parts—organs, blood vessels, nerves, muscles—you interactively require just to perform the simplest tasks—brushing teeth, showering, getting dressed, eating, etc. One body part cannot do it alone. The gifts God has given us are to be used in interactive efforts of love for blessing, teaching, encouraging, equipping, and leading each other.
My parents led me to Christ, Sunday school teachers and Bible college professors constructed biblical frameworks within my mind and heart; books, sermons, and other resources maintain and/or modify those frameworks and Christian friends and I endure long conversations that hash out God and life. I am not becoming me by myself; it takes a Church to make a disciple.
Relationships are essential to our nature. Avoiding them rejects one of God’s greatest gifts for extracting our humanity. Embrace relationships; view them as the potential treasures they are. Doing so may very well reveal the treasures in you.