Engineered by God
“It is not good that the man should be alone.” In Gen 2:18, for the first time in the Bible, after creation and before the fall, we hear God describe something as “not good”. What was not good was Adam being alone. God did not create man to live in solitude. But none of the living creatures were found to be suitable companions for man. Eve was then created out of Adam’s rib, and they were told to be fruitful and multiply.
Today, the human race fills the earth, largely by cultures, colonies and communities. We have a natural instinct to seek each other out and come together for strength, safety and emotional support. We also seek those outside of our lineage for friendships and brotherhoods.
But affluence and other factors of modern life are making people increasingly individualistic. The individual’s emphasis and priority takes over the group’s. Self-sufficiency takes precedence over inter-dependency, and independence over group identity.
Ps Luwin, in the recent Prayer Meeting, reminded us that the church is called to be a counterculture to this lifestyle through the example of the early church in Acts 2, where people come together to worship, connect and share things in common. Besides Sunday worship, we are encouraged to express this by joining a Covenant Group.
Validated by science
God has designed man to connect with each other for our good. It is in our core human nature. There is a growing convergence of research data from sociologists, anthropologists, behaviourists and neuroscientists to validate this.
Researchers found that in places with highest longevity (called Blue Zones1), one of the common factors found in these communities is a high level of communal and social relationships among the people.
Research2 in the area of neuroscience found that when a person in pain comes to a person giving comfort, brain scans detect presence of alpha-mu brain activity that is implicated with empathy in the right frontal lobe. The more brain synchrony there is between the two, the less pain is felt, suggesting the empathiser gives a form of analgesia. The research concludes that man is wired to connect.
In his book Lost Connection3 by investigative journalist Johann Hari, it was found that a significant social factor that contributed to mental illness and depression is what he calls “disconnections” from meaningful relationships with other people.
Closer to home, research4 on suicide rates among the elderly in Singapore found that living alone is one of the highest contributing factors. Numerous other studies have also found that social isolation leads not only to poor mental and emotional health, but also physical outcomes such as heart disease and stroke, as well as increased mortality.
Experienced in life
At the workplace, during pre-COVID-19 days, we feel recharged and energised after a lunch break, sharing meals and conversations with fellow colleagues. Organisations whose leaders often initiate informal team gatherings create deeper team trust and shared consciousness, team resonance and high energy. During this COVID-19 restriction on social gatherings, most yearn for the resumption of normalcy.
Exhorted by Scripture
It was an accepted axiom that man is made to connect. It is also now validated by science and our own experiences. But we must still go back to God’s Word for the last word. The foundational conviction of the Christian faith is that God is present with humanity in and through the person of Jesus Christ. The model of the early church in Acts 2 portrays where the horizontal relationships among man, and vertical relationship between man and God, ought to take place. Therefore Hebrews 10:24-25, written some 70 years after the advent of the early church, is a reminder that there is a higher purpose beyond the physical and basic needs for the church to gather. Our identity in Christ compels us to connect because we are of one body, and through this connection, we commune with God and see His light in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). But that takes a full and meaningful dimension only when we come together as a body of Christ. So let us not neglect connecting with one another.
- Buettner, Dan “Secrets of Long Life”, National Geographic Magazine, Nov 2005
- Neuroscience 2019, Society for Neuroscience, 2019
- Hari, Johann “Lost Connections”, Bloomsbury, 2018
- Goh, Kua & Chiang, “Aging in Singapore: The Next 50 Years”, Spring Publishing, 2015
– Dn Lee Pang Wee