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The Buddy System
"I am a companion of all those who fear Thee, And of those who keep
Thy precepts." (NASB)
Japanese crews preparing a building for demolition recently found the
remains of a man in an apartment, and believe the man died a lonely death
twenty years ago. A skeleton clad in pajamas was found lying on musty
bedding when workers entered the second floor unit where the man had lived.
The newspaper on the kitchen table was dated February 20, 1984.
Authorities say the man worked for a construction firm that built the
apartments in 1973. They believe he moved into the vacant building
after the firm managing it went bankrupt. They say the man, aged
57 at the time, suddenly stopped coming to work twenty years ago.
He was divorced and had children, but none of his family or friends ever
asked police to search for him. After hearing the gruesome news,
a neighbor said, "I had no idea that the apartment even existed.
After I heard the news I thought, 'It's as if time had stopped in this
Relationships make our lives so much richer. This story is certainly
an extreme instance of someone who lived and died in isolation, but to
a lesser extent, everyone who chooses not to engage with others risks dying
a slow, lonely death and miss the opportunity of living a full, rich life
in community with others.
IN GENERAL, THERE ARE BENEFITS to living in community with others.
For one, they make our DAYS RICHER. In an article for MSN Money,
Liz Pulliam Weston advises retirees, "Forget about the daily ups and downs
of the market. What matters most are your health, your friendships, your
family connections. . ."
She writes, "Another good way to combat depression and social isolation
is by cultivating a wide circle of friends. Yet most of us have a tougher
time making friends as we get older. Our lives get busy, our habits get
more ingrained, we become less flexible. Happy retirees say it's worth
the effort. Good friends of all ages can be a huge asset in retirement.
The older friends are important as sounding boards and guides to what's
ahead. Friends our own age get our jokes and pop culture references, while
younger friends give us fresh insights, keep us from getting too set in
our ways -- and help prevent us from outliving all of our companions."
Weston is writing specifically to retirement age people, but her advise
has universal appeal. Relating to people of all ages is heathy for
everyone. Can you think of a better arena to do so than the local
church? At our church, not only are we multi-ethnic and multi-cultural,
but we are also multi-generational. We are not living out our lives
in an artificial community of people just like us, but have the rich experiences
of interacting with people who aren't like us.
Living in community makes our lives richer, and there is also evidence
that it makes our LIVES LONGER. Several studies have linked religious
activities with better health, but a recent study shows that church goers
live longer. Certainly some of the longevity is explained by healthy habits
promoted by the church, like not smoking and drinking, but even after adjusting
for those things, researchers are still saying that church attendance promotes
longer life. Doug Oman, the leading author of the study said, "We wonder
if there's something else going on-like inner peace."
So will doctors be advising their patients to start attending church
as a habit of a health lifestyle? Orman doesn't think so, "There seems
to be a widespread feeling that this would be inappropriate." Orman said.
In an article for Newsweek, Claudia Kalb took a critical look at studies
like this one that show the physical benefits of faith. She rated
the claims on a scale from very weak to persuasive. Three of the claims
garnered a "very weak" evaluation from her, but she rated one--the claim
that church service attendance promotes longer life--as "persuasive."According
to her sources, the life expectancy increases from 75 years (of someone
who never attends) to 83 years (of someone who attends more than weekly.)
Personally, I'm not qualified to analyze the research or have an opinion
why those who attend church live longer, but I am confident that following
the teachings of the Bible will improve people's lives, and that the positive
interaction that comes from living with other believers in community will
not only increase the length of their lives, but improve the quality of
their lives too.
Living life in community makes life richer and longer, but there is
another benefit, it also makes us BETTER PREPARED TO FACE TRIALS.
In your bulletin is a blank sheet of paper, please take it out and crumple
it into as small a ball as you can. Even if you are Mr. Universe,
the ball is still 75 percent air. University of Chicago physicist Sidney
Nagel wondered how air could hold up something as thin as a sheet of paper.
Nagel and his colleagues investigated their question by crumpling Mylar
sheets and placing them under a heavy piston. They found that though most
of the compression took place in the first few seconds, the piston kept
crushing the sheets by small amounts up to three weeks later.
The physicists discovered that squeezing a tightly crushed wad down
to half its volume would take 64 times as much force as a normal person
can exert. Nagel says,"Even a weight lifter isn't 64 times stronger than
the average person."According to Nagel, paper balls resist compression
because crumples in the paper consist of many small peaks joined by a network
of ridges. To crush the ball further, each ridge has to buckle in two.
Compressing the ball creates more ridges, which requires even more energy
to break. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
In community, we are better able to withstand trials. God's power
is displayed as we form a network of ridges and small peaks that keep the
community of believers from being crushed.
2 Cor. 4:7-10 says, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that
the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;
we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed: perplexed, but not despairing;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying
about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be
manifest in our body." (NIV)
Yes there are personal benefits to living in community, but there are
also KINGDOM BENEFITS.
Mark 6:7 says, "Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two
and gave them authority over evil spirits." (NIV) and Luke 10:1 says, "After
this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead
of him to every town and place where he was about to go." (NIV)
When Jesus sent his disciples out to minister, he paired them up.
They followed the "buddy system." Why? For one, two can work
more effectively than one. Eccles. 4:12 says, "And if one can
overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands
is not quickly torn apart." (NASB) But another reason is because the goal
isn't just to get the job done effectively, but to grow while you are doing
the job. We learn from one another as we serve together. Proverbs
27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another." (NASB)
But a third reason, and perhaps the most important reason is that the Christian
faith was not meant to be lived in isolation, but in community. I'm
not sure which is more important, the ministry we do while we are serving
together or the fact that we are together while we are doing the ministry.
Acts 2:1 says, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were
all with one accord in one place." (KJV)
Fellowship feeds our soul, extends our life span, gives us strength
during times of trials and helps us accomplish kingdom goals. And
it is the second purpose God has for us. Are you fulfilling it?
Are you making the effort to be in community with your fellow believers,
or are you settling for living your life in isolation?