Community 1: We Are Social
Right from the beginning of creation, humans were created to be social. God said (Genesis 2:18), ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’ Therefore, God created woman, and the institution of marriage. The Bible is clear that there is a place for those who are single, and those who are married, yet the ultimate relationship we are built for is that monogamous relationship between one man and one woman. The beautiful thing about marriage, is that God gave it to us (with many benefits) as a picture of His love for His people (Israel, and now also the Church).
Marriage is not the only relationship we have in this life, though. Family (parents-children, grandparents-grandchildren, aunts/uncles-nephews/nieces, cousins, etc.) is another relationship, one that is ‘forced’ upon us, and yet can be the most rewarding. There is cultural pressures for loyalty, and characteristics that start looking like the unconditional love God wants us to have for everyone.
Another important relationship in life is friendship with others (usually of the same gender). These are relationships that we choose based on things you have in common. Friendships are for companionship, helping each other, and listening to each other. This kind of support is emphasized in Ecclesiastes 4 (v9-12), where it says that two are better than one. Reasons given include a better return for the labour, someone to help them up when they fall, ‘warmth’ or support when needed, power to defend, and the strength of togetherness. Whether it is marriage, family, or friendships, we need these things. Research has proven that the results of labour from two people working together is far more than the combined labour of two people working separately!
Too often our society has convinced us that the ultimate in the quest for independence, is the ability to do anything and everything on your own. The Bible, and experience, tells us the opposite. In some areas independence is important and good, but for all these areas mentioned dependence is not a sign of weakness. We must recognize that we are created as social beings, needing the support of one another, and of God. There are times when you will be tired, weak, emotionally spent, stressed, or depressed. It is in those times when true friends will come and lift us up, encouraging us through both words and actions. There are times when we encounter ‘enemies’ that are stronger than us, when the company of true friends provides the strength needed to counter the attack of the enemy.
Proverbs 18:24 reminds us ‘... there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’ Next to marriage (which is the ultimate in friendship, or at least should be), friendship is a relationship that is chosen to provide the support needed in life, that gives more strength and loyalty than even family, because it was chosen. The one thing that we must learn is the persistence and enduring quality of friendships (and marriages) that are based on the unconditional love of God, that never give up for anything.
Another Proverb (27:17) explains that friendship is meant not only to encourage, but to build up, like iron sharpening iron. A person doesn’t grow unless we experience struggles, and have someone to help us through the struggles. True friends need to be open and honest with each other, without getting offended at the openness. Listening to each other, and following advice is what helps us grow in our emotional and spiritual maturity. So, what kind of friend are you?
These times of COVID has pushed for more individuality, more complaining, more ‘naval gazing’ and more selfishness. As a Christian, I challenge you to counter that with true friendship, and unconditional love to show the world our amazing God, and the amazing hope He gives. We are social beings ... that is how God created us! So, let us go out and find ways to be social, encouraging, exhorting, and building up others, in love.