The human equation
Charles Schulz's faith spilled out onto his pen drawings often. Even more, when faith was in the background of his Peanuts characters truth connected his readers to Charlie Brown and Lucy and Linus and the rest. He had a way of dropping reality on us in ways that made us laugh up front, then wince later. Ouch. Reality often lands hard. One of the older lines attributed to Mr. Schulz back in the 1959-1960 The Complete Peanuts Volume 5 expressed a sentiment that is perhaps more true today than then. He wrote, "I love mankind...it's people I can't stand". People are often our greatest irritant. Just the same, they can also be among our greatest blessings. They are a missing life puzzle piece when the aggravation weighs more than the joy and, as a result, we seek solitude from them. Being alone is not God's intention for us. Remember when God said to Adam, "It is not good that the man should be alone"? We're wired for relationships.
The new secular world is odd about relationships. One of my annual reads is The Secular City by liberal Harvard theologian Harvey Cox (MacMIllan Company, 1965). Even back then he predicted the new predominant secularism and the people attachments that would define it. This new age would place anonymity and mobility as the chief cultural mile markers. We may be there. We're the world that never stays home, whatever that is, and that knows how to hide. Social media and much of the new technology has given us ways to be connected in artificial ways. Deep relationships have yielded to the veneers of user names and passwords and fictitious "about" sections where we can be the person of our dreams. It's the ideal world of love and peace and harmony without the human equation.
it's not pretense either, this new world without people. An article at The American Spectator web site spectator.org, dated May 18, 2014, addressed the new isolation of this world. A study by the National Science Foundation, published in the American Sociological Review revealed that one in four Americans, that is, twenty five percent of the population, said they had no one with whom they could talk about their life troubles or triumphs. Outside of family members, more than half of the study participants indicated they had no one with whom they could share confidences. Sadly, the researchers noted increases in “social isolation” and “a very significant decrease in social connection to close friends and family." Harvey Cox's world of mobility and anonymity is here, and we're becoming lonelier and lonelier by the minute.
Even in church the koinonia, fellowship or partnership, that marked the New Testament congregations seems strained. Most of the cool, growing, very modern church models boast large groups, great worship on a large scale, and relatively few intimate settings for relational development and growth. Still, even in this church environment, those who are in small group discipleship and practice the disciplines of traditional faith know the joys and blessings of up-close relational process where people, though exasperating by nature, bring blessing and partnership to life.
it's the human equation that is often so troublesome. But, there are realities that can guide us to conquer the foibles of being connected to other humans. Here's how---
1. Realize that humans are wired for relationships. There's plenty of
biblical instruction about how we should relate to others. Check out
Ecclesiastes 4:8-12 for a primer about the impact of humans on one another.
2. Others must always the a priority in our lives. Scripture advises that we should
think of others more importantly than we think of ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
3. We need other people, and they need us. None of us is the whole package.
Other people gap our weaknesses and supplement us with their strengths. We
cannot live the life God provides in total isolation from others. Remember
The other day I had a conversation with a young neighbor. He lives alone and has few friends. He admitted that his closest friends were the bar crowd he meets on Friday night. When I pressed him about their friendship, he confessed that they were in fact friends through the next round. There is nothing deep and lasting there. When I suggested church he blanched. "You mean, that bunch of hypocrites", he asked. "Yes," I said, "just like you.: And, me, and the rest of us for that matter."
But, even life with a a bunch of messed-up friends is better than life alone. Being close with fellow strugglers is the only answer to the human equation, another missing life puzzle piece.