As suburbanites, we can try to do life alone. The alone life has its advantages. You don’t have to mess with relationships other than family and even that can be limited. Besides as Americans, we applaud the Lone Rangers and the radical individualists. But, what if God has a different plan for us?
I’ve come from a family of independent introverts. I’m the outlier. I generally like people, but I do enjoy being alone. And if I’m not careful, I could just make life about me, my, and mine. Yet, what if God designed you and me to live IN a shared life? What if even those of us who tend to be loners would do life better IN a shared life than an alone life?
I would like to give you 5 reasons why everyone should live IN a shared life:
- You are made for the shared life
When God created the universe, he declared everything, “Good.” But, then he said that one thing was not good. “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone'” (Genesis 2:18). Even in the Garden where everything was perfect, something could be better. Humans could live a shared life rather than an alone life. The indispensable condition to a healthy, stable life is the assurance that somebody else loves me, is on my side, pays attention to me, and watches over me.
- You grow in the shared life
We don’t grow in isolation. We grow in the shared life. The apostle Paul said to the church in Ephesus, “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Growing up requires community. When I’m alone I can deceive myself. I can read, “Love one another,” and think, “Well, I agree with that. I’m pro-love. I’m all for love,” and I give myself credit for maturity on the love scale. Then I run into actual people, and it gets scary.
- You find acceptance in a shared life
Paul writes this to the church at Rome: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7). Question: How does Christ accept you? Does he ask what race you are? Does he ask whether you’re rich or poor? Does he ask if you’re smart or dumb? Does he ask whether you’re male or female, or beautiful or homely, whether you’re married or single or divorced, whether you’re charming or awkward, whether you’re athletic or uncoordinated? No. Jesus’ only question is, “Do you want my love?”
- You serve in a shared life
Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). What is this manifestation of the Spirit? God’s Spirit gives each Christian a spiritual gift or a spiritual talent to share with other parts of the church. The shared life is always built on mutual servanthood. In a marriage there are two people. If one of them is doing all the work – all the cooking and cleaning, all the shopping, and all the errands – we call that person codependent. And we call the other person an enabler. We serve the one near us in a mutual way. But, it does not mean everyone does the same thing. The person who is a strong communicator should communicate. The one who is a strong editor, edits. The one who is really good at compassion, demonstrates compassion. When everybody does what he or she is good at everyone is served and everyone serves.
- You heal in a shared life
James, the half-brother of Jesus, writes this: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Back in the Wild West, the wagon master would yell out “circle the wagons” not just when there was danger – but when he could see that the animals and the people were spent – drained. And the circle that was formed offered protection and time to rest and recover so the journey could continue.
You will never heal in isolation. It will not happen. The shared life requires more than just forming circles. It requires vulnerability, and that takes courage. This goes deep to what it means to be human. Whenever I have to step into the light, it’s embarrassing to me. But every time, I heal a little bit. I’m moving toward the light. If we reach that place with each other where there’s no image management and we’re all moving toward the light, there will be healing.
The reality is people are becoming more and more isolated, especially here where we live. A 1985 study asked folks if they had someone to talk to about important matters. Ten percent of people responded, “I have no one to talk to about important matters.” By 2010 the number had risen to 25 percent.
If you’re not in a shared life, get in a shared life.
At Lincolnway Christian Church, we will be starting a number of new growth groups this fall. These are small groups of 5-12 people who gather to grow, find acceptance, serve, and heal. Prepare your life to become a shared life, and join a growth group. More information will be at www.lincolnway.org.