Adam and Eve walked together in the garden, in perfect fellowship with God and each other. They were connected in a powerful way – there were no secrets, no sin, nothing to hide. Before each other and God they walked out their days, naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25).
The time Adam and Eve spent in the garden represented God’s best for mankind; it was the ideal. If we break down the relational components, we see that God’s ideal was not just the relationship between man and God. God didn’t make Adam and say, ‘I’m done.” Instead, After Adam was formed, He said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”(Genesis 2:20).
Then came that fateful day when Adam and Eve chose to eat of the one tree they were forbidden to enjoy. They elected to exercise their free will and take a chance to see if the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, really would make them more like God as the serpent persuaded them to believe (Genesis 3:5). They found instead their desire for independence from God brought sin, shame, and separation. Where they once walked in open fellowship, they now felt the need to hide the parts of themselves they felt were unacceptable to share.
The fig leaves used by Adam and Eve to cover themselves in the garden represent the barriers people still feel the need to place in their relationships today to hide those parts of themselves they are ashamed of or afraid to reveal. And, we still see the desire for independence from God and each other displayed by many, creating yet another obstacle for community. However God’s best plan for us has not changed, our lives are the most satisfying and enjoyable when we are connected in open, honest relationship with Him and with one another.
Thank God, that in his love for us he chose not to leave us in our sinful state, but to set a plan in place to restore us to Himself. A sacrifice was made; a sinless life was laid down to make atonement for the sins of all mankind. 2 Corinthians 5: 21 say, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This sacrifice is available to all, but in order to take part in it we have to come to Christ through faith, and when we do, we are restored to a place of right standing, or righteousness, with God.
Thank God also, that through out the Bible we can read stories of biblical figures that show us the value of being connected not only to God, but to one another as well. 1 Samuel 18:1 gives us an example of the level of connectedness King David and Jonathon shared. It says, “After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” One is Spirit! He loved him as Himself? David was a man after God’s own heart and even with the closeness and openness he shared with God; he still recognized the need for companionship. He knew he wasn’t made to walk through life alone.
Jesus also modeled community in his time with the twelve disciples, as well as with the women and others who were in his close circle. He ate with his friends, prayed with them, had several accompany him to the garden of Gethsemane, and he appeared to them again after his resurrection. And, In John 17 we have the privilege of reading one of Jesus’ prayers on our behalf. Imagine you are sitting with in ear shot of Jesus as he is praying, and you hear these words he speaks in verse 20, “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us…” He longed for us as future believers to share in community with one another and with God. To be one as seen in the openness shared between Adam and Eve; or like the friendship between King David and Jonathon… to be one in spirit, joined together in community; sharing life – naked and unashamed.
Scientific studies have proven the value of friendship and living life together. Studies have found those who are connected through meaningful relationships have been shown to have better brain development, stronger immune systems and less psychological vulnerability to all sorts of problems like depression, anxiety, addictions, etc. They also have a higher resiliency in illness, fewer heart problems, and are less prone to cancer, strokes and a myriad of other diseases. It is amazing that the benefits of community affect us body, soul, and spirit.
A popular song of the 60’s asserts that, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” While the words are catchy, they are slightly off. The truth is, and the Bible spells it out and science agrees, we all need people. When we are connected; we experience happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives.
So how do relationships help us through life? What value do they bring in the good times or the hard times, and how do they contribute to our growth spiritually?
Our Pastor shared a joke one Sunday about a Pastor who called in sick and skipped church to play golf. He had the best game ever; he hit the best shot of his life which resulted in a hole in one. As the joke goes, Jesus leaned over to God and asked him if he was going to let him get away with skipping church to play golf. God said, “Don’t worry about it… Who is he going to be able to tell?” When we have cause to celebrate, there is so much more joy produced in being able to celebrate together. Romans 12:15 says to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” It is heartwarming to share joy with others, and it is bonding to experience memorable milestones with our friends.
Mourning with those who mourn is equally as important. When we share in the grief of our friends, we enter in to their world and show we care by empathizing with them. It is healing for the hurting to feel comforted and listened to by friends and family. There is nothing worse than feeling alone during the hard times.
Lastly, our friends help us grow. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” We know that with tools, the sharper they are the better they are able to accomplish the task they were made to accomplish. The same is true for people. When we are open to the encouragement, support, and even confrontation and accountability we receive from our friends we are fine tuned to better succeed in life. In this area, as in all the areas of friendship, love is the most important ingredient. 1 Corinthians 13: 4 -8, tells us that without love, we are only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. In other words, we are only annoying to those around us. With love, we always have the greater good in mind – we are patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, proud, rude or self seeking. With love we are not easily angered and keep no record of wrongs; instead we protect, trust, hope and always persevere. Verse 8 ends by saying, “Love never fails.” Love is the strongest sharpening tool there is.
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” We see here, just as we saw in the garden, the opposing plans of God and Satan. God intends us to have life abundant, and Satan intends to destroy that abundant life. The abundant life consists of both a good, vertical, love filled relationship with God and supportive, encouraging, and life giving – naked and unashamed – horizontal relationships with people. Relationships like these happen best in community, so if you are not already plugged in to a good group of friends in your church, it’s time to get connected.
Copyright © 2009 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.