Outwardly-directed fruit

I recently heard a sermon on Galatians 5 and 6. The pastor noted how the fruit produced by the tree isn’t for the tree, but is meant to serve others.

This mirrors the heart of God, who for our sake, made him who knew no sin to be sin, so in him, we might be the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Forgiveness and Comfort

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

2 Corinthians 2

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house

Psalm 128

A song of ascents.

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
    who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
    blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.

NIV Study notes:

128:3 A faithful and fruitful wife. vine. Symbol of fruitfulness (Ge 49:22) — and perhaps also of sexual charms (SS 7:8 – 12) and festivity (Jdg 9:13). within your house. She is not like the faithless wife whose “feet never stay at home” (Pr 7:11).

Song of Solomon 7:

I say I will climb the palm tree
    and lay hold of its fruit.
Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
    and the scent of your breath like apples,

God’s views on marital faithfulness

[God] no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.

15 Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. d So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.

16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” e says the Lord Almighty.

So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

— Malachi 2


Footnotes:

d 15 The meaning of the Hebrew for the first part of this verse is uncertain.
e 16 Or “I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “because the man who divorces his wife covers his garment with violence,”

Drinking from your wife increases your likelihood of being faithful to her.

Intimacy, by Trip Lee

Oh Lord, I’m so amazed when I dig up in Your Scripture
Focused and trying to get You, hoping to get a picture
Of who You are, true You are, Holy hoping I miss You
When I get away and I miss a day spending it with You
That’s foolish, I hope to know You and be a student
And learn Your Holy ways all my days with no excuses
Ooh its such a privilege to know the God that moves and
Soothes this wretched soul, it was cold but he renewed it
And when I look at the Psalms I just pause
Got me dropping my jaw, its clear You got ’em in awe
And we can see that they yearning for Your person
Panting after You, and their passion for You is burning
I’m trying to pursue You ’cause You precious as a pearl
More than I did with them girls, I used to mess with in the world
Relentless in my pursuit, I surrender it all to You
And I pray You draw me closer in intimate time with You

There’s a longing for Your love
Not just a moment, intimate touch
There’s a longing for Your love
Not just a moment, intimate touch

It’s way too many times, I’m staying off on the grind
In other areas and I bury You in my mind
Then my life starts getting terrible, scarier and I find
Myself trying to get near to You, but You was here all the time
But I was having my share of affairs with things You designed
Kind of like a bad marriage, it’s scary it’s like I’m blind
And I’m praying You’d help me, hold me, and make me focus
I know that when I’m lacking You I’m more than hopeless
Mold this wicked heart to delight in Your precious person
Fighting, confessing, searching for Christ and lessons for learning
It ain’t even nothing good in me that I might show You
But I can see that eternal life’s that I might know You
I want to know You, be close to the God who saved me
And raised me, I pray we can be much closer
And I- I can embrace the beautiful life that You gave me
I count it all loss, Lord, that I might know ya

There’s a longing for Your love
Not just a moment, intimate touch
There’s a longing for Your love
Not just a moment, intimate touch

I’m longing for Your endless love
The knowledge of who You are
The truth that lies within Your Word
Show my heart who You are

Truly I can’t wait ’til this flesh is removed
And I’m forever with You, sin’s mess is removed
Then there’s nothing in the way, there’s none better than You
To ignore that I’m more wack, this fella’s a fool
You so mysterious, I read about You see I
I am so in awe of You, I’m all for You, You truly fly
The truth is I’m in love with You and hope that You see I
Would like to see You and I in U-N-I-T-Y

There’s a longing for Your love
Not just a moment, intimate touch
There’s a longing for Your love
Not just a moment, intimate touch

Lord bring me closely
Intimately
So to show me
Who You are
And to fill my cup, Lord
Lord bring me closely
Intimately
So to show me
Who You are
And to fill my cup, Lord
Just a lil’ bit more
I need a lil’ bit more
Na-na-na-na
Just a lil’ bit more
I need a lil’ bit more
Na-na-na-na
I need, I need more and more
More and more

God gives us sexual intimacy to bless us

I got something on my mind, bro some folks might not like that
Feel like it’s about that time to hit ’em with the Truth where that light’s at
But still some folks wanna fight that, ’cause hand that feeds wanna bite that
‘Cause they think it’s pleasin’, it’s makin’ demons of all that He made but despite that
He grants good gifts like sex, I ain’t tryna start no messin’
I don’t wanna get graphic with all the fact cause He gave it so we could be blessed
Please don’t, act like I’m gone, please don’t, just say I’m wrong, just stay
Confident in the Word, you’ll see, that He condones it
Sex ain’t the problem, it’s sinners who just forgot Him
Distortin’, corrupt like Soddom, the gifts, they want ’em without Him
It’s beautiful in it’s proper place, marriage, until we pop it up
And turn our footsteps from His face, and then we problem
Please don’t miss the problem, mayne it is not the God who reigns
It is not the gifts He gave, this is what I gotta say, say
Don’t exalt them over the God we praise
You can’t really enjoy Him till your heart’s replaced
The gifts and the Giver of good
The gifts and the Giver of good
The gifts and the Giver of good
Your heart is where the problem’s at, let’s get that understood

— Second verse and hook of “Heart Problem” by Trip Lee

Decolonizing Faith

A Native American pastor recently announced plans to author a book with the above title.

That had me considering ways my faith might have been colonized, to which I am completely oblivious. As a black African-born American Christian, with a blog that aims to revive Christian marriages by pointing couples to the Ancient Hebrew practice of Adult Breastfeeding, the more I think of it, the more I realize how all English translations of the Bible suffer from Western colonial misinterpretations to varying degrees.

Take for example Old Testament scholar Dr. Bruce Waltke, who as mentioned in this post, demonstrates that Proverbs 5:19 refers to drinking a liquid, then he immediately denies the possibility of this liquid being breast milk.

His Western sensitivities are offended by the notion of Husband Breastfeeding, so he twists his interpretation to fit his cultural tastes, and those of his readers.

Makes me wonder how many thousands of Bible verses have been intentionally mistranslated to match our cultural paradigms.

The word “slave” in the New Testament is an example, and is rightfully addressed by Pastor John MacArthur. We are slaves of Christ, not bondservants.

In Biblical times, breastfeeding one’s husband was culturally accepted. In some Asian cultures and other places today, it still is somewhat accepted. It’s time to reclaim our faith from Western colonial influences. Biblically speaking, there’s absolutely zero shame or taboo in Husband Breastfeeding. It glorifies God and strengthens marriages. View your faith through hermaneutically sound Biblical lenses, not colonially-imposed or contemporary cultural ones.

The sin that so easily entangles

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12

Guard your heart from idols and “the sin that so easily entangles.” It’s all too easy to be ensared by good things. Nothing wrong with enjoying good things, but we must take utmost care to avoid turning them into ultimate things. Satan doesn’t use the obvious to tempt and mislead.

Each time you let your heart become consumed with an ANR, what you’re saying is “God, you’re not enough. You’re not trustworthy. If you truly loved me, you’d give me what I want right now.”

Take care not to be misled by the bountiful blessings of Adult Nursing. Instead, fix your heart and mind on God and watch him rearrange your desires and give you unassailable joy.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

Marriage is eternal

Divorce(A)

10 Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan.(B) Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.(C)

Some Pharisees(D) came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

“What did Moses command you?” he replied.

They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”(E)

“It was because your hearts were hard(F) that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’[a](G) ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] and the two will become one flesh.’[c](H) So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.(I) 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”(J)

Read full chapter

Footnotes

a. Mark 10:6 Gen. 1:27

b. Mark 10:7 Some early manuscripts do not have and be united to his wife.

c. Mark 10:8 Gen. 2:24

Cross references

A. Mark 10:1 : 10:1-12pp — Mt 19:1-9

B. Mark 10:1 : Mk 1:5; Jn 10:40; 11:7

C. Mark 10:1 : S Mt 4:23; Mk 2:13; 4:2; 6:6, 34

D. Mark 10:2 : Mk 2:16

E. Mark 10:4 : Dt 24:1-4; Mt 5:31

F. Mark 10:5 : Ps 95:8; Heb 3:15

G. Mark 10:6 : Ge 1:27; 5:2

H. Mark 10:8 : Ge 2:24; 1Co 6:16

I. Mark 10:11 : S Lk 16:18

J. Mark 10:12 : Ro 7:3; 1Co 7:10, 11

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, […], regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, […] pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

As a believer in Jesus Christ you may not have a wolf inside you, but you do have an old fleshly nature which wars against your new spiritual nature. Who wins the battle? The one you feed. Romans 13:14 instructs us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (new nature), while not making provision (feeding) for the flesh (old nature). The nature you feed the most will grow stronger and thrive, while the nature you starve will become anemic and wither. Which nature are you feeding the most? Answering this question is as simple as taking note of how you spend your time. If you spend the majority of your time feeding your flesh it stands to reason that you are going to struggle to put off the flesh and walk in the Spirit.

Romans 8:5 “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.”

Guard against feeding your flesh by filling your mind with carnal things. Instead, fill your life (and mind) with spiritual things – reading God’s word, praying, meditating on God and the things of God, watching/listening to sermons, reading books about spiritual life, listening to Christ-centered music, fellowshipping with other believers, serving others in the name of Christ. Analyze your life. Ask yourself, is this activity feeding my flesh or my spirit?

I know it may seem impossible to only fill your life with spiritual things and activities. However, this mindset reveals a fundamental flaw in our thinking about life. All of life has spiritual implications. Your career (job), your schooling, your hobbies, your family life, your social life, your finances should all be viewed through spiritual lenses. See God in everything you do. Serve him in whatever you’re doing. If you have an activity in your life where God can’t be seen or served, then maybe that is an activity that should be mortified (Colossians 3:5). [Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.]

Source: Grace Baptist Church, “Two Wolves”

Galatians 5:17, NIV: For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

If you struggle with intrusive mental images of ANRs, then “think often that Christ suffered agony for your purity. Fight image with image. Christ crying in agony.”

Titus 2:14:

Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

1 Peter 1:18; 2:24:

You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, [but with the precious blood of Christ]. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

1 Corinthians 5:15:

He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

Hebrews 10:29:

How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?

From Strategies for Fighting Sexual Sin by John Piper

If your body part causes you to stumble, cut it off

43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. [44] [b] 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. [46] [c] 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ [d]49 Everyone will be salted with fire.

Footnotes

b 9:44 Some manuscripts include here the words of verse 48.

c Mark 9:46 Some manuscripts include here the words of verse 48.

d Mark 9:48 Isaiah 66:24

God goes further than avoiding negatives

You must not murder. (Exodus 20:13) Q. What does this mean?
A. We should fear and love God so that we may not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need [in every need and danger of life and body.] Luther, Small Catechism.

From Tim Keller

Not only does a good woman avoid hurting her husband, she goes further by being a source of blessing to his body, as her husband reciprocates.

“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”

— Ephesians 4:28

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers

(28) Let him that stole (properly, the stealer) steal no more. . . .–In this verse St. Paul treats dishonesty, virtually, although less distinctly, from the same point of view as before. For he is not content with forbidding it, or even with forbidding it as fatal to society; but he directs that it be superseded by the opposite spirit of self-sacrifice, working in order to give to others what is honestly our own, as the fruit of the labour of “our own hands.” In that direction there is a profound wisdom, in striking at the root of that exclusive selfishness which so often and so naturally exhibits itself in dishonesty. But we note in it also a peculiar harmony with the great doctrine of unity; for the sense of unity will always exhibit itself in working what is “good,” that is, gracious, for the sake of “him that needs.”

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 28. – Let the stealer [steal] no more. Ὁ κλέπτων may be translated either as a noun or as the present participle. In either case it implies that even Christians might continue to steal, and that they had to be warned against the habit. This may seem strange to us, but not to those who consider how little theft was thought of among the pagans, and how liable such habits are to remain among converts from heathenism. Where there is a low moral tone and an uneducated conscience, very great irregularities may be found. Dishonesty in trade, deceit in business, are just the same. Among the Ephesians, thieving was probably the result of idle habits and of dislike to hard work. Hence the apostle says, But rather let him labor, working with his hands the things that are good, that he may have to impart to him that hath need. Idleness is mean, labor is honorable; Christ calls us to work, not for this reason only, but in order that we may have something to give away. Paganism would rob others of what is rightfully their own; Christianity leads me to give to others what is rightfully my own. This different genius of the two systems appears here very clearly. Observe the true use of superfluities – look out for the needy, and give for their relief.

The God who mourns

If you’ve ever seen a lightning bolt, heard thunderstorms, felt the magnitude of an earthquake, smelled the potent odor of sulfur in a natural hot spring or tasted a hurricane’s wrath, you realize how completely at God’s mercy we are.

But that doesn’t even scratch the surface. There is the turbulence of the Great Red Spot, the toxic environment and crushing pressure of the gas giants, the intensely violent energy of a supernova, the supermassive R136a1, the ultra large UY Scuti and the inconceivable size of the universe.

We are absolutely insignificant compared to the enormity of creation.

Despite all these awesome displays of power, God chose to be born in a manger. He decided to enter into our brokenness. The Bible, however, doesn’t magnify God’s name through these awesome displays of power in the created universe, but in the gospel (see Romans 1:16).

By rejecting his Son for us, God chose to mourn. He chose to temporarily abdicate his power and might, and instead lament for his children, whom he adopted and showered with abundant comfort. God chooses to mourn so he can turn mourning to dancing.

This parallels a couple who can be out in the world doing things associated with adults, maturity, independence and strength, but choose to stay home and nurse.

I would argue that God’s nature as a mourner makes him more glorified. Somehow, God is more magnified when he grieves. Our God is a suffering God. A patiently enduring long-suffering God. Strength and vulnerability are inseparable in God’s dictionary.

The act of selflessly feeding others is also an inseparable part of God’s nature. There’s something particularly sweet and humble about giving of yourself to benefit others. Humility is strength. God is somehow more God when he laments. And when he comforts those who lament. Comfort, affection, tenderness, mourning and consolation are inextricable parts of God’s nature.

“[I’m looking for a] man who finds comfort and solace between the curved mounds of my chest and craves the taste of my milk.”

— K

Breasts = feasting and abundance

The ESV of Proverbs 5:19 on the YouVersion Bible app contains a footnote on the word “breasts” pointing to Jeremiah 31:14 which reads:

“I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the LORD.”

A clear suggestion that breasts are meant to be sources of satisfaction, feasting and abundant delight.

See also Isaiah 66:11 (you will drink deeply from her comforting breasts)

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 19

Single and Lonely: Finding the Intimacy You Desire

Perhaps you are single by choice–you want to be on your own for a while, enjoying the freedom and benefits of adulthood. Perhaps it’s not your choice, and a divorce, death, or broken relationship has propelled you back into singleness. Or maybe the opportunity for a serious relationship has never arisen. But whatever your situation, sometimes you feel lonely and long for companionship. It’s natural to desire someone with whom you can share your lifetime, and it’s easy to think, If I were married or just had some kind of relationship, then I wouldn’t be lonely. But will a change in your circumstances really solve your problem with loneliness?

A Common Experience

Unfortunately, getting married won’t protect you from loneliness; married people get lonely too. Sometimes it’s because the marriage isn’t all that great. Maybe the only thing they share is the same bed. Maybe the only thing they agree on is to avoid talking to one another. Whatever the reasons, the reality is that marriage has fallen far short of their dreams. They are lonelier now than they’ve ever been.

Even spouses in great marriages sometimes feel lonely. A young couple splits their days between work and classes, studying all night and spending their weekends serving at church. A mother struggles when her husband is away on business trips, while he spends his evenings in lonely hotel rooms. A man who has worked his entire life so he and his wife can spend their retirement traveling together now spends every moment caring for her as she slips away with Alzheimer’s. He’s committed to her, but he’s lonely.

The list of people who experience loneliness goes on and on. People change jobs and move away from family and friends. The elderly spend hours alone in nursing homes. An alcoholic finds himself living on the streets. Soldiers serving overseas miss their families. Kids go off to college. Prisoners are in isolation. Patients are confined to bed. The list includes the person living next to you. It includes you– but not just because you are single. All of us, at one time or another, experience loneliness.

Circumstances vary, but the feelings are similar. We feel isolated, vulnerable, and alone. We want to talk and be heard. We want to be known and understood; we don’t want to feel invisible. We want to be included and cared about. We desire intimacy. We want to be connected to someone.

A Flawed Strategy

So how do we remedy this loneliness? When I was a child I thought it was simple: Make one really good friend. I was a good listener, and I combined that with a decent sense of humor and a willingness to be helpful. My job was to listen, make you laugh, and help you out. Your job was to be my friend so I wouldn’t be lonely. But eventually I would upset the balance of this arrangement by asking you to help me. If you couldn’t manage it, I felt hurt. Or maybe I couldn’t get you to listen to me for ten minutes when I had already listened to you for hours. In either case, I wouldn’t dare tell you that I was hurt because you might have gotten upset with me. So I would take self-protective steps to prevent getting hurt again. 

    Do you see the dynamic? I work to get you to like me, but I also work to protect myself from you. I move toward you because I want your acceptance, but I back away because I want to play it safe. A tug-of-war goes on within my heart. My desire for acceptance wins one moment, self-protection the next. The result? I send out a continuous stream of mixed messages. When I am self-protective, I withdraw into myself. But then I become afraid you are (a) losing patience with me; (b) glad to be rid of me; or (c) not even noticing that I’ve withdrawn. All of these possibilities are bad, so I risk getting hurt by being nice again so you’ll still like me. Sooner or later, it all takes too much effort, and we drift apart. But eventually, loneliness gets to me, the memories fade, and I begin the cycle all over again with someone else. 

    I didn’t always realize that my strategies not only increased my own loneliness, but added to other people’s loneliness as well. Neither did I realize what was going on in me beneath the surface. At a very basic level I was treating my friends like objects, manipulating them so they would do what I wanted. When they let me down, I saw them as obstacles to my sense of security and belonging. 

The Remedy for Loneliness 

In his mercy, God didn’t leave me to endlessly repeat this cycle. He opened my eyes to this reality: it isn’t what remedies our loneliness, but who remedies it—namely, Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners. 

    Loneliness is a result of man’s original sin against God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-13). The perfect union Adam and Eve had enjoyed with God and with each other was destroyed when they chose to disobey God. Sin separated them from God and from each other. Where once there had been openness (they had been naked and unashamed), sin made for hiding (behind fig leaves and trees). Where once there had been completeness, sin made for loss. Where once there had been acceptance, sin made for rejection. Where once there had been praise, sin made for blame (“she made me do it”). Hiding. Loss. Rejection. Blame. All ingredients of loneliness. Loneliness was born at the Fall. 

    It is true that before sin entered the world, God had declared that it wasn’t good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18), but God was stating a fact, not voicing how Adam was feeling. At the time, Adam was enjoying perfect communion with God. Apart from God telling him, he had no way of knowing that anything more was possible. Maybe Adam began to get an inkling of it as the animals paraded past him, but it was God’s assessment that man should not be alone. This shouldn’t surprise us. After all, God created man in his image, and he is not a God who exists alone. He is one God in three persons—three who are alike, yet distinct. God wanted man to enjoy fellowship with him, but he also wanted man to enjoy the kind of fellowship God enjoys as three members of the Godhead—with others who are like us, but distinct from us. Because we are made in God’s image, we are made to be in relationship with him and with other people. 

    Some have implied, if not stated outright, that marriage is the solution to loneliness. But where would that leave a child who won’t have that option for years? Or a prisoner with no hope of parole? Or an elderly widow or widower? This notion suggests that one category of people is potentially exempt from loneliness, and the rest of us are just stuck with it. But that’s not true. Remember, it was a married couple who first experienced loneliness. And consider this: if marriage was God’s answer to loneliness, why won’t there be marriage in heaven? That’s kind of a trick question because actually there will be. Only it won’t be individuals who are married in heaven. It will be God’s people corporately—the church, the bride of Christ—who will finally meet the bridegroom Jesus face to face (Revelation 19:1-9). 

    The real solution to loneliness lies not in marriage, but in our union with Christ, which leads to our union with one another. When God created Eve, he created marriage; but more than that, he created community.  

Marriage is a form of community, perhaps its most basic and elemental form. Community requires people coming together. In marriage it happens literally. Community usually involves the group expanding. In marriage this happens by bearing children. But God’s plans are always bigger and better than ours. 

    When God called Abram to follow him, he told him that his descendants would outnumber the grains of sand on the seashore and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:16). God always had in mind a community made up of those from every tribe and language and people and nation. But the Israelites, Abram’s descendants, were so caught up in being the chosen race that they overlooked that part.  

    Even today we’re not much different. We’re big on family, but we tend to think of it narrowly—as in our own personal, nuclear families. Yet when Jesus was told that his mother and brothers wanted to speak to him, he said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? . . . Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48, 50). Jesus was redefining and enlarging the meaning of family. It’s still based on blood—but it’s his shed blood. 

    When you look at Genesis 2 through the lens of Jesus’ work on the cross, you will be blown away. Yes, it’s wonderful that a husband and wife become one flesh; but it’s even more wonderful that Christians comprise the body of Christ, so connected with each other that if one part suffers, we all suffer. If one part is honored, we are all honored. It’s incredible for a husband and wife to come together, to be fruitful and multiply; but it’s even more incredible that Christ grows and multiplies his kingdom by sending flawed people like us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). It must have been fantastic for Adam and Eve to be naked yet unashamed with each other; but it’s even more fantastic that Jesus has washed away our sin, and we now stand clothed in his righteousness! We don’t need to hide behind fig leaves when our sin is exposed. Now we can confess our sins to one another. 

    This is what Jesus has done for us. He went to the cross, betrayed and deserted by his friends. As he hung there, becoming saturated with our sin, even his Father had to turn away from him. Has there ever been a lonelier moment? Adam and Eve hid among the trees because of their sin, but Jesus hung naked and exposed on a tree because of our sin. Adam and Eve were guilty, yet tried to pass the blame. Jesus was completely innocent, yet he took our blame on himself. Jesus was rejected by his Father so we could be accepted. He gave up everything so God might lavish his blessings on us. Because of Jesus’ love for his Father—and their love for us—Jesus hung on the cross until he died. By paying the penalty for our sin, he reversed the effects of the Fall and turned the tide on loneliness. 

Loneliness Can Be Relieved 

Do the effects of sin still linger? Of course. Loneliness will not be eliminated until we get to heaven. But in Jesus Christ and through his work, change is possible. Loneliness can be eased for us and by us. When I tried to handle it on my own, I did not understand that I needed to love people rather than fear them or use them. Through my counseling classes and Ed Welch’s book, When People Are Big and God Is Small, God helped me to identify what was going on in my heart and repent of it. 

    Have I arrived? Certainly not. Ask anyone who knows me. But now, at least, I know how to pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). 

    I encourage you to ask the Lord to show you where you intensify your own loneliness and, even more importantly, the loneliness of others. For instance, some of us consider ourselves introverted or shy. To us, there’s nothing more intimidating than starting a conversation. What a great opportunity for a heart check! Ask yourself what’s holding you back. Fear of rejection? Fear of being embarrassed? You may be surprised to discover that it’s actually pride: You don’t want anyone to discover your flaws. Or maybe you don’t want to be seen talking to someone “like that.” There are lots of possibilities. Ask God to show you. 

    Maybe you are extroverted and outgoing. It is easy for you to talk to people you’ve never met before. In fact, you talk and talk and no one else can get a word in edgewise! What’s going on? Pride? Do you love to impress people with how smart or funny you are? Or perhaps it’s fear. You’re afraid of silence or of being alone. Ask God to show you. 

    Whatever you might find when God shows you your heart, remember that God wants to change you—and me—to make us more like him, more like the people he created us to be. When we surrender ourselves to him and let him work in us, amazing things happen. First, our relationship with him deepens. We find ourselves actually relating to him rather than just referring to our relationship with him. That kind of change certainly reduces our loneliness. 

Changed Priorities and Perspectives 

God also changes our priorities. Rather than being self-absorbed, we become more focused on others. If your goal is to solve your loneliness, you will end up using people as I did. But when you “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33, ESV) you will end up loving people. Along the way you’ll discover that you’re just not as lonely as you used to be. In fact, you may find you’re not lonely at all. 

    How might these changed priorities play out in your life? It might mean that you notice the aloneness of others—and instead of waiting for an invitation you invite a single-parent family over for dinner. It could mean reaching out to an elderly couple and helping them with the more strenuous household chores. Or perhaps you could run errands with someone else. We all have errands to run, so why not make it a social occasion? 

    You may be thinking, I’m too busy as it is. I don’t have time for that! But when you take these kinds of steps, relationships develop. Your perspective changes and you find that certain activities don’t seem as important as they used to. You may also find many times that double benefits occur. Having a family over for dinner gives you the opportunity to have fun with the kids, which also gives their parents a break. As you help the elderly couple with household chores, they share with you the wisdom of their years. When you run errands with someone else, you wind up helping each other with other mundane tasks, and that makes them easier and more enjoyable for both of you. 

    What are some other ways to move toward people? Let’s take a look at three: 

    1. Look and see. 

    How many people cross our paths every day? Shop clerks, bank tellers, trash collectors, neighbors, people we pass on the street, or those who sit behind us in church services week after week. All these people blend into the background of our busy lives. We give them a nod, but that’s it. Have we looked at them and seen them as people God has put in our paths to love, even in the simplest ways? 

    God sees us and watches over us. Remember Hagar in Genesis 16? Sarah could not conceive Abraham’s child, so she decided that Hagar her maidservant should bear Abraham a son. When Hagar conceived and Ishmael was born, Hagar treated Sarah with contempt. Sarah reacted by driving Hagar into the desert. Surprisingly, the angel of the Lord followed Hagar and spoke with her. Hagar was amazed! She said, “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). Hagar, a slave woman, was not invisible to God. Should anyone now be “invisible” to us? 

    In Luke 7 Jesus was on his way to the town of Nain with his disciples. A large crowd followed them. Amid all the activity, Jesus saw a grieving mother and his heart went out to her. He stopped to comfort her and restored her dead son back to life. The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus seeing hungry, lost, hurting people and reaching out to meet their needs. How are we going to minister to a world full of lonely people if we haven’t first looked to see them? 

    2. Listen. 

    Something else we can do to move toward people is to listen to them—listen well. We serve a God who knows our every thought. He knows our words before they even reach our tongues, yet he encourages us to talk to him. When we do, he listens. Why? Because he wants us to relate to him, as a child to his father. How do we know he listens? Because Scripture records conversations he had with people—conversations that included give-and-take dialog between God and Abraham, Moses, Job, and many others. The Lord of the universe listens to us too. 

    If God cares enough to listen to us, how can we not care enough to listen to others? Listen not only to the words they say, but listen also for what they mean. Notice what their tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language are communicating. Listening well requires us to take a genuine interest in others. It also requires patience and wisdom that come only by the work of God’s Spirit in us. 

    3. Touch. 

    Touch can ease the loneliness of others. This is a sensitive subject since we live in a society where practically everything has been sexualized. Even Christians are prone to read all kinds of things into innocent actions. I’m not naїve; I know that sinful touching occurs even within the church. However, the correct response is not to avoid touching or to be paralyzed by fear of lawsuits. Rather, the church should be a place where we treat one another as family members with “absolute purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). 

Jesus didn’t just talk to the people he healed. He touched them, and he let them touch him, too. Those who have been physically or sexually abused should be able to find comfort and healing not only in the words they hear at church, but also in the touch they receive—touch that conveys nothing more or less than kindness. Do we want to be sensitive to people’s experiences and wise in the way we go about it? Absolutely! But we don’t want to overcompensate by never reaching out with a touch at all. When someone has been deprived of touch or hurt by inappropriate touch, it is wonderful to see her respond with joy when she is touched in kindness with the love of Christ. 

Scripture tells us to love one another (John 13:34). Next in line on the “one another” list is “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16). If that’s a little too much for you, how about offering a handshake, a pat on the back, a touch on the forearm, or maybe a hug? God created us with skin that is sensitive to touch, and he declared everything he created to be good. We, as the body of Christ, can offer his touch to lonely, hurting people. 

A Community of Oneness with Christ 

These suggestions are ways we can individually image Christ in a lonely world. But what can happen when people as a group decide to live out their oneness with Christ and each other? I once belonged to a church where the leadership didn’t want to just profess that Christ was the head of the Church; they wanted to practice it. They reasoned that Christ wouldn’t lead some of them one way and the rest another, any more than we would tell one leg to walk right and the other left. They believed that he would lead them all in the same direction, so they agreed to submit first to Christ and then to each other. That meant decisions had to be unanimous, not decided by majority or consensus. And unanimity meant that everyone truly believed in and agreed upon the direction God was leading them. This is radical oneness. 

One of the first things that needed to change was the way the church leadership conducted their meetings. Rather than opening with a brief devotional and prayer for the congregation, they began studying the Bible together and praying for themselves, repenting of their sins, and interceding for each other. Then they prayed for the congregation. Many were gifted businessmen who knew how to argue their positions and get their way, but this was a “whole new ball game.” They had to die to themselves and their agendas to seek the mind of Christ. They had to really listen to each other, not just wait until someone stopped talking so they could speak their piece. God trained them in patience, humility, and forbearance with one another. They learned to appreciate each other’s God-given gifts and perspectives. They developed a deep affection and respect for each other. They had begun by agreeing to a philosophy of ministry, but God knit their hearts together in love as they sought the mind of Christ. 

At times there would be one or two who thought things should go one way, while the rest felt otherwise. They would pray and wait until they were all of one mind. Sometimes the many ended up agreeing with the few. At other times the few eventually agreed with the many. But rather than being frustrated by the process, thinking, We’ve wasted so much time. Why couldn’t you have agreed with us in the first place? the leadership recognized that the delay was actually God’s mercy to them. He had prevented them from moving ahead prematurely. 

Sometimes the process was slow and painful. But something astounding happened! They not only learned to act as one, they also became one. The Holy Spirit enabled them to live out of their union with him to a degree they never had before. Their hearts were exposed and changed. They related to one another in new ways. Do you see the progression? Change in individual hearts led to change within the leadership, which then spread out into the congregation itself. God was growing and strengthening the church in a way that was faster and better than anything they could have done by their human efforts. 

It didn’t end there. Transformed members of the congregation reached into their neighborhoods, touching lives like never before. Those outside the church noticed and responded to the invitations of their neighbors. Others just showed up at church out of curiosity. In time, the makeover within the congregation resulted in a change in the makeup of the congregation. Men wearing Brooks Brothers’ suits sat shoulder to shoulder with people in tee shirts and jeans. 

Obviously, everyone involved was still only a sinner saved by God’s grace. Problems continued to arise that needed addressing. But nothing diminished the joy of witnessing firsthand an incredible answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-23

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me….I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 

Whether we are single or married, we will experience loneliness in this fallen world. But God wants to enter into our loneliness and transform it. He unites us to himself and each other in Jesus as we submit our lives to him; and he calls us to enter into the loneliness of those around us. I look forward to the day when we will be delivered completely from loneliness to oneness with him. 

[About the author

JAYNE V. CLARK, M.A.R., is a counselor with over eighteen years of experience, a frequent retreat and conference speaker, and the author of many counseling articles.]