Belonging

In her story in The Atlantic, “Social Connection Makes a Better Brain,” Gloria Esfahani Smith said, “We volunteer less. We entertain guests at our homes less. We’re getting married less. We’re having fewer children. And we have fewer and fewer close friends with whom we’d share the intimate details of our lives. We’re denying our social nature, and paying a price for it. Social isolation has increased, our levels of happiness have gone down, while rates of suicide and depression have multiplied.”

I was thinking about how different our relationships are today from when I grew up. Back then, I knew the folks who lived up and down my street. Over 50 years later, I can still remember most of them. But today we don’t know our neighbors. Our houses have automatic garage doors. Back decks have replaced front porches.

Today, churches have become voluntary associations of individuals.  We choose a church the same way we choose anything else—it has to “work for me.”  When it stops “working for me,” we move on.

This Sunday, we welcome new members in the church. It’s hard to imagine anything we do that is more important. God doesn’t just beam the Holy Spirit into us when we believe. It is through others that God is formed in us and we become who Christ made us to be.

The word “you” in the Bible is almost always plural, but we don’t read it that way. When we ignore the plural “you,” we diminish ourselves.

CS Lewis, the great 20th century Christian author, told the story in his book the Four Loves about his friendship with two men, Ronald and Charles. When Charles died, he consoled himself with the idea that now he would have more of Ronald. But what he discovered was, that instead of having more of Ronald, he had less. He found that we are such rich and complex beings, that there are facets to our personalities that only others can bring out. You actually get to know a person better in a group than one on one.

How much more is this true of our relationship with Jesus Christ? We need each other to bring out all the facets of Christ in us.

 

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