1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
There are almost countless reasons to avoid isolation as a Christian, but this is one of the main ones. We weren’t made for isolation. That’s why solitary confinement is considered special punishment in prison. The flip side of that is that many of the frustrations and irritations of life come from our interactions with other people, but that’s simply part of being human. God created us for community, because His first purpose in creating us was for fellowship with Himself. If we weren’t social beings with one another, we wouldn’t be very good children with Him. Frankly, we need each other. There’s a well-known story of a pastor who went to visit one of his members who rarely attended church, and the member insisted he could worship God on his own, in “the cathedral of nature.” It was a chilly day, and there was a fire in the fireplace. The pastor didn’t say anything, but took the fire tongs and moved one burning coal away from the others, out onto the hearth. Neither man said anything for a while, watching the coal go from flaming to glowing, and then gradually get darker and darker. After a while, the church member abruptly said, “I’ll be in church this Sunday.” We need each other for encouragement, to build each other up. Otherwise, we lose our flame and the devil has an easy time with us. Excessive focus on the organization, the institution, of church certainly presents problems, and there have been many reactions against that down through the years. In Japan there’s even a denomination called “The Non-Church Movement.” Even though they are called that, they still get together for meetings! Just the other day I was in a group of pastors from various denominations, and some of them were talking about how their time was so taken up by organizational meetings. That is a distortion, certainly, but as it says in Hebrews, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
This is an important thing for me to remember, because I have tended to be a loner for much of my life. God in His wisdom matched me with an extremely social woman who has never met a stranger in her life, and over the past 50 years I’ve become reasonably social. As a church, we are organizationally independent, so I have had to be intentional in reaching across denominational lines for fellowship. I would hate to be tied to multiple committee meetings each week, or even each month, but I do need to be tied to other pastors, as well as to the believers in this church and others. I need to be encouraged and built up, as well as to do that for others. The many current methods of electronic communication can be very helpful, but there is a major danger in the level of abstraction they insert. I am not to think a text message is an adequate substitute for face-to-face interaction, or even for voice communication. I deal with people who try to withdraw, to interact only with their phones, and they are a strong cautionary tale. I must be gentle and persistent in breaking through their barriers, and very careful not to erect such myself.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for teaching me over the years how much I need other people, and for showing me they need me as well. May I be the part of the Body of Christ, in every way, that You want me to be, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!