Do you remember getting into trouble with your parents when you were a child? If so, what was the punishment that you disliked the most? For me, it was being sent to my room by myself. I absolutely dreaded that punishment, mostly because it meant I had to be alone.
I know that some of you reading this may be introverted, and you may think that getting sent to your room to be alone doesn’t sound half bad. I find it interesting, however, that isolation has always been considered a form of punishment. In the prison system, for example, solitary confinement is one of the most extreme and drastic forms of punishment that someone can be given. Even our justice system reflects the fact that human beings do not thrive when they are completely isolated!
Created for Relationship
Genesis 2:18 gives us some key insights into the design of human beings and how isolation is not best for us. After God placed Adam in the garden, God said “It is not good that man should be alone.” At face value, some people may look at this passage and think that God was only referring to Adam’s need for a wife, but it is much bigger than that.
We know from earlier in Genesis that we were made in God’s image. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth”’(Genesis 1:26).
Being made in God’s image has many implications, one of which is that human beings are uniquely designed to have dominion over the earth. But note that the passage states, “Let Us make man in Our image.” (emphasis added). This is referring to the triune God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons in relationship with one another. This suggests that part of what it means for us to be created in God’s image is that we were created for relationship.
Community is essential
The past two years have obviously presented challenges for community life, and I am grateful for the ways that technology has allowed us to stay connected even when not physically in the same space. Still, it is worth noting that the separation we experienced from others had a drastic impact on our mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, rates of depression and anxiety among U.S. adults were roughly four times higher in 2020 and 2021 than they were in 2019.
I understand that life is full of seasons, some of which make it harder to be connected in community. I also understand that solitude is an important spiritual discipline. It is vital for our spiritual health that we spend time alone with God, growing in intimacy through prayer and Scripture study. Even so, I do not believe that we can thrive as Christians — or even as human beings — without being in community.
There are so many commandments in the Bible that we couldn’t accomplish without being with others. Galatians 6:2 tells us to bear one another’s burdens in love. James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to one another and pray for each other. We are to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18), to build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and to be patient with one another (Galatians 4:13). We are also to forgive one another as Christ forgave us (Colossians 3:13).
Jesus was wounded by community
On the note of forgiveness, I want to take a quick moment to address those of you who may have been hurt by Christians in the past. It is possible that you have hesitations about Christian relationships or have opted out of Christian community for a time. From the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry that you have been hurt by people who are supposed to be representing Christ.
I know that I have been hurt, and I have also hurt others. This is why I am so grateful for God’s grace, and I am so grateful for Jesus. What Jesus did on the cross wasn’t just on behalf of the sinner. He also died on behalf of the sinned against. Jesus was betrayed, denied, and abandoned by his disciples — his very own community. He understood what it was to suffer community wounds and to be sinned against. He understands your pain.
But he also invites us to walk in resurrection life. He invites us into Christian community — into the family of God. As we learn to forgive, just as Christ forgave us, we begin to truly understand exactly how love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). We begin to heal from the wounds we have experienced in Christian community and we start to grow into more mature followers of Jesus that walk in radical love that is a witness to the world.
And if you have hurt someone — as I certainly have done before — I want to encourage you to take the first step toward reconciliation and ask for forgiveness. This could be a major step toward helping someone heal from past wounds and walk in freedom.
We are better together
I know that this is all easier said than done. But as we progress further into 2022, I want to invite you to take a practical step to get into community with other believers. Make a phone call. Schedule a coffee date. Join a small group. Start a small group! Don’t settle for a mediocre Christian life when you have the opportunity to grow more into the likeness of Christ by being in community.
If you would like to learn more about the topic of Christian relationships, my church is doing a community-focused teaching series over the month of February called “Better Together.” You can see a preview of what we are discussing by clicking here. I hope you will check it out and come to understand that we truly are better together.
Miles McPherson is the Senior Pastor of the Rock Church in San Diego. He is also a motivational speaker and author. McPherson's latest book “The Third Option” speaks out about the pervasive racial divisions in today’s culture and argues that we must learn to see people not by the color of their skin, but as God sees them—humans created in the image of God.