Loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions. Best defined, loneliness is the emotional state created when people have fewer social contacts and meaningful relationships than they would like — connections that make them feel known and understood. Studies show that one in two Americans consider themselves lonely.
I have become well-acquainted with loneliness, especially in the present years of living and serving here in a foreign land. At times it nags stronger than others. The barriers of distance, culture, and language never fully dissipate. And one outside of their home culture is never fully able to absorb into another. It is what it is.
We all long to belong and to be seen, regardless of our context. We know this increases our emotional health and fends off loneliness. We need the beneficial presence of others, as much as air. We need togetherness. However, the vulnerability that community necessitates feels scary. The effort to understand another’s paradigm is demanding and sometimes uncomfortable. The risk of trusting others and putting ourselves in the way of potential hurt feels threatening. And often, we don’t have the expendable time and energy for such investments.
What stood out to me the most as I climbed inside Acts 2 (continuing to write my way through the book of Acts) is that Yeshua intimately understood the problem of loneliness in the brokenness and busyness of humankind. His coronation gift of the Holy Spirit is such a tender act, both in a personal and a communal sense.
He prayed for you and me before he was crucified pleading, “Father, keep them in your name (which you have given me), that they may be one, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. Sanctify them in truth (John 17).” I can never read that chapter without choking up, the syntax of Yeshua’s words like seeing his soul turned inside out for us.
Yeshua understood we are not capable of sticking together — as well as experiencing personal joy — apart from the Helper. The Helper is to be the unifying factor corporately and also companionship personally. Both aspects of this Gift are needed to live in wholeness. I don’t believe that we have these abilities in and of ourselves. Nor can we manufacture them.
And as to our fears regarding engaging vs. withdrawing in community (I’m not discounting the oft challenge of finding it), the Helper also gives enablement. The Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:16 how we are to see others as we live amongst them: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Regarding people after the flesh means after our natural human viewpoint, which focuses on externals. All the outward appraisals and inner comparisons are done away with in Yeshua. Finished! Because Christ died for us and we place all our trust in him, we don’t live unto ourselves and all our old standards of faulty seeing and assessing. We have a new system of thinking and looking (not flesh, but spirit now activated), and the Holy Spirit lifts us above and enables us to see and love others anew.
With this new mental attitude of recognizing or knowing no man after the flesh, we have an entirely different attitude toward people and God’s will for our life and their life. We live not consumed by the diverse “vessels” of others; we’re after the treasure in them (Christ!).
We are to live both undisturbed by the world and others around us in all their idiosyncrasies, completley overwhelmed by our new life with Yeshua that we share in his Body. The Spirit within our spirit is to be the dominating force in our days! I’m tipping my chair back here at my little desk while I write, the words coming out in fast revelation. I breathe a renewed sigh of relief, for they are liberating. I can see and love my husband, my children and those I walk among here in my little Mexican town with the eyes and the heart of one who cares for their restored and growing intimacy with their Creator, becoming all He intended. This is what is paramount above all else, and not tangled up with anything else.
Is this not freeing and uncomplicated? Lighter? May I have, may we have, the eyes of our hearts opened wide to see that which is the eternal essence in others and know each other as our Saviour sees and knows us, spirit to spirit.
Approach with me Acts 2 (the next post for the sake of length here) with all this in mind: Yeshua knows that apart from our new life in him and the subsequent gift of his constant presence within us, we are left utterly lonely. Notice as you read this chapter, the bond of the Spirit that occurs, and his ramifications upon the people. Notice the straightforward boldness and disregard for the opinions of man in light of the desired purposes of Yahweh.
Praise Him, oh my soul, be unfettered and praise Him! Seek today a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit, an increased ability to recognize and enjoy the fellowship of his presence and the experience of knowing no man according to the flesh, savoring community based on the common bond of Christ within us.