Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A sad story appeared in the Boston Globe in October 1993. It reads as follows: “It can never be said that Adele Gaboury's neighbors were less than responsible. When her front lawn grew hip-high, they had a local boy mow it down. When her pipes froze and burst, they had the water turned off. When the mail spilled out the front door, they called the police. The only thing they didn't do was check to see if she was alive. She wasn't. Police finally climbed her crumbling brick stoop, broke in the side door of her little blue house, and found what they believe to be the 73-year-old woman's skeletal remains, where they had lain, perhaps for as long as four years. ‘It's not really a friendly neighborhood,’ said Eileen Dugan, 70, once a close friend of Gaboury's, whose house sits 20 feet from the dead woman's house. ‘I'm as much to blame as anyone. She was alone and needed someone to talk to, but I was working two jobs and was sick of her coming over at all hours. Eventually I stopped answering the door.’ ” (Source: Sally Jacobs, "Years After Neighbors Last Saw Her, Worcester Woman Found Dead," Boston Globe 10/27/93)
This story is morbid, but true. Even though it is an extreme case, it reveals the danger of isolating from others. Adele Gaboury, who seemed to be seeking relationships with others, did not evidently have any family or friends to whom she was close. She must have lived a very lonely life. All those who lived around her were too busy to develop a close relationship with her. Perhaps there are those around us like Adele. They have deep needs, but we don’t have time to develop a close friendship with them. Maybe we choose to live isolated from others, not taking time and effort to get involved in their lives. This can be true in families and in neighborhoods, but it is so often the case in churches. We can attend the same church for years and never develop close relationships. We can sit across the sanctuary Sunday after Sunday and yet never know the name of that person, or never speak to him or her. All conversations and relationships that we do have are surface in nature and go no deeper than a courteous greeting. We see each other, but know very little about the other. There is no accountability nor any desire to get to know each other. We too often choose the path of isolation and have little involvement with others.
In my recent preaching series on “Confronting Complacency,” I addressed the question, “Are You Isolated or Involved?” I pointed out that isolation is one of the greatest hindrances to developing relationships. When you isolate yourself from others, you cut yourself off from a ministry from others (Eccl. 4:7-12). You need someone to help you and someone with whom you can share, but you choose to go it alone. Isolating yourself also cuts you off from a ministry toothers(Heb. 10:24-25). The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us to consider one another, focusing our attention on the other and turning our focus from our needs to those of others. We should consider one another in order to stimulate and stir up one another to love and to good works. How do you consider one another? Negatively, by not abandoning the assembling of ourselves together, and positively, by exhorting (encouraging/admonishing) one another. This is a major purpose of meeting with one another, not only on Sundays, but whenever the opportunity arises. You cannot study the “one anothers” of the New Testament without realizing the necessity of being involved in one another’s lives (cp. Rom. 12:10, 16; Gal. 5:13; Phil. 2:3; I Thess. 4:18; 5:11; I John 4:7, 11). In addition, the experiences of life require involvement as we share in the rejoicing and in the suffering of others (Rom. 12:15; I Cor. 12:26).
Let’s take personal inventory. The answer to these questions may reveal how isolated or how involved you are:
With which three people in our church have you begun to develop a relationship this past month?
Can you name the new families who have come into our church in 2018? Which have you made an effort to welcome? With which have you developed a relationship?
Are there people down the pew or across the aisle to whom you have never introduced yourself?
Do you confine your involvement only to the people with whom you sit/associate each Sunday?
Is there anyone in our church to whom you are accountable? Who are you keeping accountable?
Do you regularly attend small groups (Sunday School, connection groups, etc.) to get to know others?
Do you utilize time before and after services to get to know others?
Do you limit your interaction with church members to Sunday mornings? Or do you make contact during the week also?
What percentage of your relationships at church are only surface in nature? How many close relationships do you have?
Do you regularly pray for the needs of those in our church? Do you communicate this to them?
In this new year, commit yourself to leave isolation behindby deepening your involvement in the lives of others. Take the risk to get to know others . . . move out of your comfort zone. Take the initiative in making contact . . . don’t expect others to come to you. Go beyond the surface. . . use each contact to learn more about the person.
Because of His Grace — Pastor Charlie