Out of Isolation

Perhaps one of the great crises faced by our generation is isolationism. We live in a world of immediate communication—Facebook, Twitter, text messages, cell phones, Skype. We can speak immediately, 24 hours a day, with almost anyone in the world. Yet, we live in a state of isolation. Even when we do know people “well” we’re rarely transparent with them. We create facades, profiles, images. We nurture our own ego, build our fantasies and then protect the fiction. If we are lucky enough to have close friends, we may share some of our heartbreaks and frustrations; we might let a really good friend see behind the curtain, but we even keep those interactions on the affirmation level. I affirm you; you affirm me. I assure you that you are doing the best you can, that the problem is everyone else. You assure me that nothing is my fault. Perhaps that’s why the Bible doesn’t tell us to be good friends to one another; it tells us to love one another, calls us to become family. Family, maybe especially sisters, don’t just peek behind the curtain. They throw back the curtain, point out the cobwebs and then start helping you clean it up. If I’m the one who is really “off base,” and I tell one of my friends about it, my friend will listen and empathize. If I’m “off base” and tell one of my sisters about it, she will patiently hear me out, but then she will line me out. I don’t enjoy those conversations, regardless of whether I’m the one receiving the rebuke or the one issuing the challenge; but I thank God (eventually and sometimes that’s quite a long time afterward) that I have sisters who love me enough to be “iron sharpening iron.” (Prov 27:17)

As the church, we have a duty to break down those walls of isolation. The Bible teaches that young women are supposed to learn from older women; young men are supposed to learn from older men. It is not accident that the Word does not define what is young and what is old. Age is relative. To some women I’m the younger woman, and to some women I’m the older woman. The role is relative, but the key is that authentic relationship is required. Sadly, we rarely have authentic relationships. I would have fewer regrets and have been a better wife and mother if more older women of the church been more authentic with me.  Those who were bold enough to help me, changed not only my life, but the lives of my children and my husband.  To be more authentic, we must be bold! For some women, bold means getting up and saying hi to a visitor. For some women, bold is looking at a situation and recognizing that another woman is headed for trouble and having the courage to say, “Hey, I’ve been there and done that.” Being a sister means having the guts to say, “Look, it’s your business and you have every right to tell me to butt out, but if you’ll let me help you, I can. I can tell you where you’re headed because I walked that path.” For some, boldness lies in leading a women’s Bible study. For some boldness comes in a quiet conversation over coffee sprinkled with tears. For some, being bold means picking up the phone and calling someone we don’t know very well and making plans to go to lunch. We need to go to lunch together. We need to get to know one another. That means time spent together.

I’m not making this stuff up. Jesus did. He called his disciples, his friends, away from work, to spend time together and with him. We read of Jesus going to weddings, joining in worship, eating & celebrating, mourning, praying with those closest to him. In fact, I am aware of very few times (when he fasted in the desert and when he waited to meet the Samaritan woman at the well) that Jesus was not spending time with others. Based on the scriptures I’ve studied, Jesus very intentionally engaged with others. He sought them out—literally—and called them out to spend time with him and together.

We have made the saying—What Would Jesus Do—almost cliché, but let’s really look at His example:

Time and again in the Gospels, we find the words “Jesus called them to him.” Little children, Peter, James, and John. Just go on over to BlueletterBible.org and type the words Jesus and called into the search bar. You’ll find examples in Matthew, Mark, & Luke. He called people to Him and together.

Jesus touched people, literally and deeply emotionally. When you type Jesus and touched into the search bar, you’ll get even more hits: people who were blind, lame, even covered in oozing sores of leprosy. He touched them. That they were healed is usually our focus, but don’t lose sight of where Jesus focused—the interaction. So much so, that even when He was the one being touched, He insisted on the interaction.

Luke 8:43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?”

It appears that some searching for the woman ensued, and Jesus insisted on calling her out. He wasn’t seeking her so that she could be healed. Notice the end of verse 44—”immediately her discharge of blood ceased.” The healing was already complete! They could have simply moved on, but Jesus insisted on interacting with her. It looks like this delay took some time, and Peter was ready to move on—but Jesus pursued the interaction:  “When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!'”

Jesus pushed because He wanted the woman to come to Him, to interact. She finally did; she came out of hiding, out of her isolation!  Verse 47 reads, “And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.'”

Don’t gloss over this powerful truth within this interaction between Jesus, the healed woman, you and me.  The truth is that Jesus knew. He knew who had touched Him. He knew who she was and why she had touched Him just as He knew who Nathaniel was and that he had been sitting under a fig tree before He came to meet Jesus.  Jesus did not create all that fuss so that He could get to know her. He called her to Him and, in the process, she interacted with the entire crowd and “declared in the presence of all the people” who she was and why she had touched Him. What was all the fuss about?  Jesus was calling her out of isolation.

He calls us out of isolation.  This is where we start. Like the woman who believed deeply that if she could just touch the tip-edge of His clothes, she would be healed of something that had tormented her for years, we must reach first for Jesus. His touch heals.  Whatever it is that torments us, Jesus will heal.  He explained it to her so that we can understand: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”  Peace is a rare commodity in this world.  Jesus is the only source.

Then He calls us out of isolation–just as He did with her.  When we come out of hiding and into His presence, the isolation begins to end.  Like the healed woman, the Samaritan woman, Mary at the empty tomb–when we have been touched by Jesus–we can’t keep it to ourselves!  Like the prophet, it burns within our bones and we have to pour it out, to share it with others.

He teaches us to call others out of isolation. Like His disciples, we need to intentionally do what Jesus did. Call people to Him and together. Philip said it to his brother, “Come and see!” The Samaritan woman told the whole town, “Come and see!” Reach out to others and interact authentically. Fix them breakfast, like Jesus did. Go to their homes for dinner, like Jesus did. Attend weddings, like Jesus did. Visit the sick. Go to worship—and participate, like Jesus did. Take time away from the crowd to spend time with a small, close group of friends, like Jesus did.

Today. Right now. Reach out—first to Him and, with Him, to others!

PS–Here are a few scripture references some have requested—(Jesus fixing breakfast: John 21:42, Jesus over for dinner: John 12:3, Jesus at a wedding: John 2:1, Jesus visiting the sick: Matt 17:8, Jesus teaching in the synagogue: John 6:59, Jesus going to away from the crowds with friends: Matt 26:30).

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