In the movie Castaway, a plane crash survivor named Chuck is stranded on a deserted island in the South Pacific for several years. As Chuck learns survival skills and becomes more physically adept for life alone on an island, mentally he begins to deteriorate. His biggest obstacle is not finding food or building fires, his biggest obstacle is loneliness. He becomes so desperate for companionship that he ends up creating a “friend.” This friend turns out to be a volleyball. With his own blood he draws a face on the volleyball and names him Wilson.
Wilson becomes Chuck’s constant companion. He talks with Wilson, looks after Wilson, and even has arguments with Wilson. Chuck is clearly becoming emotionally unhinged.
One of the reasons why Castaway was such a powerful film was that it was believable. There are real life scenarios where isolated and lonely people begin to breakdown emotionally, suffer depression, and even converse with inanimate objects. So it’s not a stretch by any means for us to think that a man alone for years on an island would develop a relationship with a volleyball and begin to mentally lose it due to isolation. The creators of the film and us intuitively know something that the Scriptures told us a long time ago: “It is not good that the man should be alone…” (Gen 2:18)
When you consider the context of Genesis 2:18, this statement is remarkable. Adam seemingly has everything he needs in the garden. Adam is given a purpose, he is given work, he is given incredible foods, a safe home, and animal companions. Yet God declares Adam’s situation as “not good.” What’s more remarkable about this is that not only did Adam have all the things I just mentioned, he had something even greater. Was Adam truly alone? Was there not another in the garden with him that he could communion with and enjoy and relate to? Yes! There was God! Adam had God! Yet God looks at this situation and He says it is “not good” and that Adam is “alone.”
If anyone other than God said something like this we’d perhaps accuse them of blasphemy. Yet this diagnosis is from God. In Genesis 2 we learn something fundamental about human beings. We were created for community. Not only were we created for community with God, but also with one another.
Every human is wired to be in community with others who are equal to him, yet distinct from him. That should not be shocking, because we are made in the image of a heavenly Father who Himself has eternally lived in existence with persons who are equal to Him, yet distinct from Him, with different roles and functions. The Bible is clear there is only one God, but He exists in three persons. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
For this reason it’s not shocking that God’s divine image-bearers are expected to live in a community that reflects Trinitarian love, harmony, and diversity in the midst of unity. And it’s not shocking when humans stray from God’s design they may find that life doesn’t work quite as well for them and there may be consequences such as loneliness, depression, or even having arguments with a volleyball.
In Genesis chapter 2, God creates one man and one woman. Two people that are equal in personhood and value but yet distinct in other ways. Scripture shows us clearly how the husband and the wife, different by design, have different and unique roles and functions in marriage. For example, the design of the husband to be the leader of the home and the wife to be His helper and the child-bearer. Just because God hasn’t designed the husband to bear children doesn’t mean he’s inferior to the wife. And just because God hasn’t designed the wife to lead her husband doesn’t mean she’s inferior to him. They are two persons, distinct, yet equal, and so united that they are called “one flesh.”
This reflects the Godhead. The members of the Trinity have different roles and functions but just because the Father didn’t die on the cross that doesn’t mean He’s inferior to the Son. And just because the Son submits to the will of the Father, it doesn’t mean He’s inferior. They are distinct yet equal persons with differing roles and functions and they are so united that they are “one.”
The most important human community the Bible talks about is the Church. The Bible says that marriage will not exist in heaven, but the Church will exist not just in this age but in the age to come.
And what do we have in the Church? Unity in the midst of diversity. The Church is a collection of people from every tribe, nation, and tongue who have been all saved from their sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul compares the Church to the human body which is diverse in its parts and roles and functions yet they are all nevertheless part of one body. This large, global, universal church is expressed in local congregations all over the world. The idea of a Christian who is part of the global, universal Church but refuses to connect with a local church is totally foreign in the New Testament.
One of the most mind blowing descriptions of the Church’s purpose is that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:10, ESV)
The Church is meant to be a display to the Satanic powers that they are defeated and undone. The separation and alienation between man and God and man and fellow man due to sin has now been bridged through the cross of Jesus Christ. For a Christian to resist involvement in a local congregation is to resist being a part of displaying God’s wisdom to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
Some Christians are very independent and individualistic. They are not interested in being deeply involved in the life of the Church as expressed in a local congregation. I know people who profess to be Christians yet resist being part of a church. They say, “I don’t need the church. I can worship God in the woods and on a mountaintop. Just give me my Bible and leave me out in the wilderness and I’m good to go! God is all I need!”
But time and again the Scriptures remind us that it is not good for man to be alone. If it wasn’t good enough for Adam in the garden before he sinned, it’s certainly not good enough for us sinners. And the local church is meant to be the believers’ main source for community and fellowship. This is why the author of Hebrews admonishes us to,
…consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV)
The “stirring” up of one another to love and good works happens in Christian community when believers regularly “meet together” beyond just 90 minutes on a Sunday morning.
And Paul in Ephesians shows us that the church community is to be a Spirit-filled community commending God to one another by addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-21, ESV)
This can’t happen by yourself on a mountaintop or watching religious television. You may be able to have a nice worship experience in isolation, but you won’t fully experience all that God has for you that can only be found in the context of Christian community.
The kind of beautiful, loving, and thriving church community the Bible wants us to shoot for is exemplified in the Jerusalem church in the book of Acts as the believers,
…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God… (Acts 2:42-47, ESV)
In the New Testament, a Christian who is content with isolating himself from the church is just as odd as the man on the island yelling at his volleyball. It’s a sign that all is not well and as it should be. It’s a sign that something unhealthy and detrimental is happening.
The irony is that the lone ranger Christian who says all he needs is Jesus is actually cutting himself off from Jesus. The church is the Body of Christ, and much of what Jesus has to offer you will be through His church. We all know that churches are not perfect and people have been hurt in the local church. But it is also through the church that Jesus shows His love for us in a real and tangible way through others who have Jesus’ heart. It is through the church where we receive helpful accountability through our brothers and sisters in Christ, where we are “stirred up” to love and good works, where pastors can shepherd us and guide us in a manner that will draw us closer to Jesus.
Even when the church does hurt us or let us down, that is an opportunity for us to learn how to exercise the love, mercy, grace, and patience of Jesus, thereby helping us to better know and identify with the One who knows how to love the unlovable. If you join my church there’s a pretty good chance I’ll let you down eventually. There’s also a good chance you’ll let me down. But what we stand to gain from each other far outweighs whatever trials we might have to endure together. It’s not that Jesus can’t work apart from the local church, it’s just that much of the work He does will take place within it.
Lastly, not only does the church have something to give to you, but you have something to offer the church. There is no part of the Body of Christ that is unimportant. Paul teaches us that the different members of the Body “have the same care for one another” and “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26, ESV)
So yes, God is all you need. He will surely supply His people with everything they need. But much of what you need will be given to you by God through the community of faith. If you’re not involved in a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving congregation, there’s no need or benefit to you being a spiritual castaway. Come off the island and join the rest of us. Not only do you need us, but we need you.
Grace and Peace,