The quintessential American hero is the loner. He is a man who lives and travels alone, and to all outward appearances has no need of companionship. In the old westerns his only possessions were the clothes on his back, his gun, his saddle and the gear packed in it, his horse, and maybe a dog. He spent his life going from place to place, pausing only long enough to pick up supplies, and, if necessary, to vanquish the bad guys. When the dust settled, he rode off into the sunset, never to be seen again.
This portrayal has long been associated with Americans and we have reveled in this imagery of “rugged individualism”, a phrase that was popularized by Herbert Hoover during his presidency. The paradox of our love affair with this imagery is the fact that few of us are emotionally or psychologically inclined toward it. The plain truth is that most of us would find such an existence so lonely that it would destroy us. In fact, we generally tend to look with concern upon anyone who seems to not need or desire social interaction with others.
Whatever our views of the loner might be, we need to recognize that this is not the way God intended for us to live. The scriptures show this in two ways. First, after God created Adam the scripture says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him'” (Gen. 1:18). God knew that human beings need intimate companionship. For this reason He made the woman and gave her to Adam to be his wife. The marriage relationship not only provides this needed companionship, but also helps us avoid sexual sin.
Second, the scriptures teach that Christians do not make the journey to eternal life alone. In Rom. 12:3-8 and in 1 Cor. 12:12-26 Paul taught that Christians are individually members of the body of Christ. As such we are connected to each other in the same way that all the parts of the human body are connected to each other. Thus, what each one of us does, or does not do, affects the rest of the body. Paul dramatically made this point by saying that one part of the body cannot say to another part that it has no need of it (1 Cor. 12:14-21). In other words, no part of the body can subsist apart from the rest of the body.
In Eph. 4:11-16 Paul illustrated the importance of our interaction with each other as members of the body. He said that the body only grows when each individual part functions as it should in conjunction with all the other parts of the body. This is one of our purposes as Christians. If we are not involving ourselves in the lives of our fellow Christians we are not only missing out on the encouragement and edification that they give us, but we are robbing them of the same.
In 1624 the English poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
As human beings we are inexorably tied to one another. What affects one affects all of us. However, how much more so is this true of Christians? We cannot help each other on our journey to eternal life until and unless we are involved in each other’s lives. We, of all people, should desire the sweet fellowship of those who share our faith in Jesus Christ. We, of all people, should get out of our comfort zone and refuse to be loners.