Loneliness and isolation seem to be gripping the world these days. It seems as if it's becoming somewhat of an epidemic. People seem scared or anxious to engage with others. Many seem to be secluded themselves, some by choice, many by circumstance.
How do we find relief from this? In order to help figure this out we are going to look at the book of John. Turn to John 15:9-17.
9 ""I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father's commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn't choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
This is near the end of Jesus' life. He is with his disciples and where this passage falls is in the midst of a conversation that begins toward the end of John 13, when Judas Iscariot has just left the room and Jesus realizes the betrayal is near. When the door shuts it's like there is an urgency and excitement in the room. The time is short and there is much he wants/needs to tell the 11 that are left. Throughout chapters 14 thru 16 Jesus is explaining to them the fact that he is going away and that they cannot follow him just yet. He is showing them what it all means for their future life, their own sorrow and joy and mission in the world. This is right before his arrest in the garden. And the passage we are looking at today is right in the middle of this whole scene.
At this point, the disciples do not understand that Jesus will soon die for his friends. After the resurrection, they will finally understand the significance of these words. Jesus' love will require him to go to the cross for his friends. His commandment to love each other as he has loved us (v. 12) also requires serious sacrifice. The love of which Jesus speaks is more than a feeling, it is love in action, love that pays the price.
The cure for loneliness and isolation is LOVE!
Jesus is saying 2 things here:
Remain in my love.
And love each other.
And those are the 2 points that will bring you relief.
Look around, who needs you, who needs your companionship, who needs you to be their friend, who needs you to be their family, who needs you to show up, with no expectations, but to just love them and bring them into relationship
Can you make this new year one where you:
Look - for those around you who might need you
Listen - when the spirit says to move into their lives
Engage - with them even if it's hard or messy
Invite - them into your world, your family, your friend group, your group
Support/Encourage - them to keep moving out into the world
Make this the year of relief from loneliness and isolation, that those that are lonely can move out into the world armed with the deep, unconditional, bold love of Jesus, the most important relationship any human being can have. A year where we as the community of Christ will move into the lives of the isolated and lonely with the deep, unconditional, bold love of Jesus. There is no reason that someone that is engaged in the church or engaged with a community of Christ followers or engaged with even a single Christ follower should ever be lonely. We should make sure that never happens.