God created us for community. In Genesis, before sin entered the world, only one thing was declared “not good”: man’s aloneness (Gen 2:18). And don’t we feel it in these days of quarantine? It is not good to be alone.
And for the Christian, the loss is doubly felt. We don’t only need other human beings to thrive, we specifically need other Christians to encourage us, to strengthen us, to pray for us, to remind us of truth, to confess sin to, and to worship with (Eph. 5:19, Heb. 3:13, 10:25). Following Jesus may be an individual decision, but it is not an individual assignment. We cannot and should not do it alone.
So what can we do in this time of isolation? Of course we should still strive to do life together, even if that means through Zoom, FaceTime, texting, phone calls, and letters. None of us can make it through this alone! But I think there is more we can do. This quarantine is giving us time to do two things that will greatly strengthen our communities. It’s giving us time to (1) deepen our friendship with Jesus and (2) evaluate the quality of our friendship to others.
OUR ONE TRUE FRIEND
Every legitimate need we have is ultimately a sign-post to show us a far greater soul-need: to know God.
Our need for food and water alert us to our need for Jesus, the Bread of Life and Fountain of Living Water (Deut 8, John 4). Our need for shelter points to Jesus as our only refuge from coming judgment (Is 25:6. Ps 34:22). And our need for community points us to the Communal Three-in-One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yes, we desperately need friends (and food, water, and shelter). But more than these we need God.
Jesus is our one true friend. The one our souls were made for. So use this time to deepen that relationship. Read whole books of your Bible in one sitting. Write down new things you learn about God. Spend 30 minutes talking to him and telling him all that’s on your heart. Go on prayer walks. Sit for 20 minutes on your front porch in silence and give the Spirit inside you time to speak, to bring things to the surface your busyness has been hiding.
If we’ll do this, we’ll re-enter our communities with souls that are satisfied in Christ. When we enter friendship with thirsty souls, we come as consumers, looking for what we can get. But when our souls are satisfied, we come excited to be good friends to others, looking for what we can give.
WHAT KIND OF FRIEND ARE YOU?
Every year, I take one or two weeks out of my summer to fast from my friendships. I call it my “Solitude Week.” This time gives me a chance to step out of the merry-go-round of texting, phone calls, and meetings and evaluate my health as a friend.
Currently, we’re all in an indefinite solitude week. A social fast has been mandated, yes by governing authorities around us, but also by God himself, since he reigns as sovereign over all human authorities. So let’s use this time to evaluate our friendship habits and identify ways to grow.
Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves:
Am I being a good friend to others or am I using my friendships to meet soul needs only Jesus should meet?
Am I trying to foster too many friendships? So many that I have no time for Jesus, my one true friend? Or no time to do my job well? Or no time to have a healthy marriage or to train up my kids well?
Am I taking seriously the command to love others as I love myself? Or am I waiting around for others to come love me?
What fears are motivating me in my friendships? Who am I afraid to disappoint? Where am I afraid I’ll be hurt?
Are there issues in any friendships I’ve been avoiding? Hurts I’ve been harboring? Who do I need to ask forgiveness from? Who do I need to forgive?
Am I keeping a busy social calendar to avoid obeying God in other areas of my life? Or am I staying too isolated because it’s easier than opening my life up to others?
This is a great time to “sharpen the saw” and ask God to make us the kind of friend to others that we wish we had ourselves.
Thankfully, this season of isolation won’t last forever, but let’s not waste it while it’s here. Let’s be intentional during this time so that our communities will be stronger than ever when we gather together again.
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