Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dying for Community

A recent article from the Harvard Medical School says:
Loneliness actually stresses the heart and the entire cardiovascular system, and may harm them as much as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. What helps the heart and blood vessels thrive are social connections, intimacy, and love.

Many of us don’t get enough of these. The average American has just one or two people he or she can talk with about important subjects, and a whopping one-quarter have no one, according to a nationwide survey published in the June 2006 American Sociological Review. As many as 20% Americans classify themselves as lonely.

Meanwhile, heart attack survivors scoring high on tests of social isolation and stress were four times more likely to die during the three years after their attacks than those with dense social networks and little stress. Older people with little or no emotional support who were hospitalized with heart failure had triple the risk of having a heart attack or dying in the next year as those with good support. Blood pressure averaged 30 points higher among lonely people than among those who weren’t lonely. Men preparing for bypass surgery who agreed with the statement “I am lonely” were twice as likely to have died within five years of surgery as those who weren’t lonely.
With the rapid increase of lonliness & depression in our culture, it's accurate to say that we are literally dying for community. And there’s a reason.

Do you know what the first "bad" thing in the world was? Genesis 2:18 says, "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone.'" The first “bad” thing in the world ... was human aloneness. Later in John 13, Jesus says, "By this all will know you are my disciples, if you love one another." And again in John 17 he prays ... "Father, may they be one in us as we are in each other so the world might believe that you sent me."

And it makes sense. After all, God created us - in His own image; and at His very core, God is community. Described as three persons in one, often referred to as Father, Son, ad Holy Spirit for our undertanding, but far beyond the roles those titles embody. Infinite, unified, interpenetrating community. Diversity and unity in an intimacy best demonstrated in perfect marital sex, but still far beyond any such mortal metaphor.

That’s why we long for community so much ... Our hearts were made to need it. The deepest longings of our hearts point us to God's design. They point us to God. They point us to community within God, depending on Him and interdepending on each other.

That's the kingdom of God. The gospel of reconciliation. And it's for you. For me. For everyone. The worst part of hell isn't fire (always used figuratively of judgment in eternity anyway). The worst part is being alone. Separated from God. Separated from the people who are born again of God's love. If people choose separation from God in this life, that choice carries into the next.

Intimate community breathes health into our bodies here. How much more will it breathe life into us in glory! The nature of God's kingdom is a reconciliation that solves the human dilemma: that we are dying for community with God and people. The community we were created for. That's an easy gospel to embrace... and an easy one to preach. It really is "good news."
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4 comments:

Alan Knox said...

John,

I'm sorry that I'm late, but thank you for this post! We are created to live in community with God. When we are living in community with God, we will also be in community with others who are also in community with God. Now we can see that this is healthy spiritually, emotionally, and physically!

-Alan

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

The first “bad” thing in the world ... was human aloneness.

That's an awesome observation. And if we read further down in chapter 2,

25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

Talk about intimacy!

Community with God gives us the privilege to be 'naked' emotionally with Him. Thanks be to Christ Jesus who made that possible!

I am new here but I enjoy your blog.

John Lynch said...

Hey Alan! Always good to see you, bro.

Welcome Bino! Look forward to reading your stuff!

That observation into shameless intimacy helps us see how the first consequence sin (shame / hiding ourselves) were so very destructive & death-saturated. And it helps us see the deep, deep, deep significance of our "ministry of reconciliation." It's a return to life.

Wow.

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