Isolation is not just distance from God’s people

It continues to sadden, but not surprise me, when people deny, reject, or otherwise abandon that whichImage the Bible says they need.  I am talking about biblical, gospel-centered, community. There have been many times that shepherds, like myself, have “left the 99” to chase after the one sheep who has wandered. Sometimes this proves fruitful.  Most of the time, it is disappointing and draining. Then if, after much time and energy spent, the exasperated shepherd decides to stop actively chasing (even though his hope for return remains), things go from bad to worse.  With no shepherd around, the lying wolves come out from hiding in the woods. And if the wandering sheep stops running long enough to look around, they become frightened. They look back to see that the once “chasing” shepherd has returned to his flock–and the now lonely sheep begins to listen to the lies of the prowling wolves.

After listening to lie after lie, the sheep will often adopt an identity as a victim in their attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors.  The sheep wrongly believes the shepherd never “really” loved them (at least not the way they needed); they wrongly believe that the flock doesn’t care and has forgotten about them (at least not like they care or think about the flock), and they wrongly begin to believe that they are “better off” without the flock (at least this one).

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment. Prov.18.1

Of course, it is rare, if not impossible for anyone who has never experienced community to admit that they don’t really need what they never had. But it is rarer still for those who have experienced community, to admit that they don’t have it anymore.   When challenged about their observable withdrawal from fellowship (obvious to everyone in the community they once shared) they often become defensive.  Instead of listening for the heart behind any admonishment, instead of sensing the pursuit by those they love, they hear nothing but “unspiritual” opinions and feel nothing but attacked.  Blind and offended, they’ll often respond with a carefully prepared list of evidence to prove they haven’t withdrawn–it reads like a time card–which only serves to affirm the contrary.

The truth is, we all need community and community needs all us–we were built for it. When God describes his church as a building, a body, and a bride, it is clear that community is not an afterthought (And even if you don’t believe God, even the world proves that nothing significant happens without community, teams, etc.).  According to the Bible, a community of soldiers helps us to fight; a community of athletes helps us to run; a community farmers helps us to grow; a community of counselors help us to be wise; a community of priests helps us to heal; a community of prophets helps us to learn; and a community of kings helps protect us.  The opposite is also true.  Without community you cannot fight, you cannot run, you cannot grow, you cannot be wise, you cannot heal, you cannot learn, and you cannot be protected.

The Bible is clear. When someone wanders from the people of God, when they cease to listen to the heart-desires of their brothers and sisters, they have isolated themselves away from more than just people. No matter how spiritual they might look, feel, or sound, according to Scripture, those who isolate themselves are self-seeking and no longer seeking the desires of God.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment. Prov.18.1

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Author: Sam Ford

Sam Ford is a preacher, planter, and pastor from the Pacific Northwest. He is currently pastoring Restoration Road Church in Snohomish, WA.

3 thoughts on “Isolation is not just distance from God’s people”

  1. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:19-22

    Without the church and community this is not possible.

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  2. Jeremiah 23:1-4 (ESV)
    23 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

    John 10:12-18 (ESV)
    The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

    Proverbs 16:18 (ESV)
    18 Pride goes before destruction,
    and a haughty spirit before a fall.

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  3. Thank you “anonymous”. These are important verses,ones that all pastors, including myself, should keep on the forefront of our minds always. Verses like Hebrews 13.17 remind me of the command to shepherd honorably as every pastor will give an account for the flock they lead. Of course, I am a man who needs grace as much,if not more, than the next guy. Verse 18 reminds those who are being led of their responsibility to graciously help by praying. I am grateful for those brothers brave enough to fight in this regard.

    Perhaps a past blog will prove helpful for you.
    https://roadpastor.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/323/

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