It is a curious paradox of the 21st century. Despite having technology that makes us the most ‘connected’ society in history Americans are lonely! Just prior to the outbreak of COVID a reputable national survey found that three in five (60%) of Americans reported that they felt lonely. They described themselves as feeling “left out, poorly understood and lacking companionship.”
There are many reasons that account for this. Our families tend to be more scattered than they were a generation ago. We live longer and loneliness is an issue especially prevalent among the aged who are no longer able to be active. We marry less and have fewer children. We turn to television and computers as a substitute (very poor ones) for complex real friendships! We no longer ‘join’ clubs, churches, and community service organizations like we once did.
Sometimes, too often really, the loneliness we feel results from being ‘left out,’ unable to find a place where we can build and sustain relationships. From the time of childhood, right through adulthood, we human beings have the awful capacity to ignore or marginalize that person who is different – in color, in race, in religion, in language, even in ability.
During World War 2, Americans decided that being of Japanese descent was enough to make a person suspicious. This nation, which prided itself on being free and open, because of great fear took thousands of citizens and locked them in internment camps. I wish I could say that was a singular aberration but it isn’t. 20 years ago, after the attacks on 9/11, Muslim citizens endured awful discrimination. More recently, when COVID was made a ‘China’ issue, people of Asian descent dealt with hatred and rejection in many cities and town.
Our pastor at FDC reminded us yesterday that we are called to bear the image of God, our Creator and that basic to that image is the idea of community. God, the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit – exist in eternal community and we are made to be like Him! He has designed us to share life – with Him and with others. We can know Him because Christ Jesus restores us, by grace through faith, to a right relationship. And, loved by God, we become people who seek to create relationships with others, who care and share.
Let me remind you that God loved us not because we are wonderful, charming, or beautiful. He did not love us because we were eagerly seeking to please Him. Scripture tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” He stood with us and His genuine love is to change us, making us into people who love people. Yes, we care about (not pity!) even those that are rejected or marginalized by others. We identify ourselves with them, standing with them. This is what Jesus did and so must we. The Scripture says, “Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” (James 1:27, The Message)
We need to guard against a patronizing kind of assistance that reaches ‘down’ without really coming alongside of those in need. The person who struggles to fit in, that one who has material need, the one who is rejected because of her skin color or ancestry does not want us to pretend to care so that we can feel noble or like we have ‘done our duty.’ We cannot love as God desires without becoming one with those we consider to be ‘other.’ Simply offering a meal or a pat on the back or a check to help with rent is a nice gesture and relieves some measure of suffering, but such efforts do not change people’s lives or show them God’s salvation.
Only if we are willing to get involved in a way that makes our lives intersect with those in need, can we hope to really make a difference. This is what Jesus did in the Incarnation! “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NIV) He moved into the neighborhood, joined our church, and made life with us. This is our model for the kind of love and community that God desires. We cannot just ‘let it happen.’ We must work at it, be intentional, strategize to create a strong churches that honor the God who calls us into His Body.
My friend, it is time for those who are ‘in Christ’ to work against the divides of America. We are too ready to be politically, socially, racially, religiously, and economically divided. We paint those who are ‘other’ with broad brushes of generalizations that really do not fit. We tend to see only the caricature not the reality. Let’s start to pray that God will start to heal our land starting in our church. Let’s pray for the ability to love and accept those who have different convictions about the world. Let’s invite others to join the ‘family’ of God.
It’s not a dream, it’s a calling! It can happen because God supernaturally makes us one. Here is a word from the Word. Would join me in praying that these words will become more than ‘words’ turning into truth we live by? “So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians—you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, NLT)
A simple prayer for this day – “Lord, change my love for ‘ME’ into a love of ‘WE.’ Amen.
(Video of this blog at this link)
It’s crowded in worship today
As she slips in trying to fade into the faces
The girls teasing laughter is carrying
Farther than they know
Farther than they know
(But) if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
(There is a way)
A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat and quietly
Sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances
Tells him that his chances are better
Out on the road
Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ
Jesus is the way
- © 2003 Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
- My Refuge Music (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
CCLI License # 810055