Speaker: Mike Winebrenner
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Bible Passage: Genesis 2:18-23
We’re taking a break from Samuel this morning to talk about relationships.
We are 14 months into the pandemic. The worst of the virus is now behind us. But we are still feeling the effects of the pandemic and we will for a long time. That’s not just because of the people we’ve lost or the damage to our economy. It’s because of the damage it has done to relationships.
I think we are suffering from relational atrophy and it is time for us to flex those muscles again. God created us for relationships and it’s time to re-engage. We’re going to look at a few verses from Genesis 2:
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Just a simple message today… God created us to be with people.
Genesis 2 is not just a statement about marriage. It helps us understand all human relationships. God says, “Alone” – not good. “Helper” – good.
“Helper” is a word used all over the Bible to describe a companion, not just a spouse. And not just an acquaintance or a co-worker but someone you have a social connection to, some sense of intimacy. Adam was incomplete trying to do his job without a companion.
All of God’s creative efforts reach their peak in the creation of Eve. Adam alone wasn’t good enough. God wasn’t finished until he had a community. Why? Because for humans to really be made in the image of God we have to be in relationships. God is relational.
God didn’t make humans because He was lonely. He has always had community. We call it the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God made us for community. He made us to need other people.
And part of that means the world does not revolve around me as an individual. I’m not living in a movie about me. I’m living in God’s movie and I play one role in the story – the role He wants me to play.
My purpose in life is not just what I DO or what I WANT. The other people in my life are not just here for me to use. Not according to God. But that is the way we think.
And because we are so focused on our own needs and our own goals, relationships become a means to an end. We start to choose artificial connections over real ones – connections to “friends” online that we don’t really know, connections to characters in a TV show, connections to objects we can control instead of people we can’t.
One of Ryan Gosling’s first movies is a really strange film called “Lars and the Real Girl”. Lars buys a life-size female doll online. He puts her in a wheelchair and makes up an entire life story for his new “girlfriend”. He names her Bianca. She’s a missionary.
Everyone in town knows there is something psychologically wrong with Lars, but they begin to accept the doll as a real person because they love Lars. The whole time, there is an actual real girl with feelings for Lars that he ignores for most of the movie. What’s the point?
The movie is saying that we are choosing artificial connections over real ones, because they are easier to control. We get a relationship fix to tie us over and we never have to engage with a messy real person.
To some extent, I think we all do this. And covid has made it extremely easy. What distractions are we using to avoid real relationships? What excuses have we made? Why are we choosing easy instead of messy?
It’s because real relationships are difficult. They are not easy.
If you keep reading in Genesis, the fairy tale ends very quickly! In chapter 3, Adam and Eve do the one thing they were told not to do. And with their failure comes the blame shifting and the shame and the anger and the hurt and the tears. Instead of making life easier for one another, they begin to struggle. Life became much harder because they both became much harder to live with.
And then in chapter 4, one of their sons kills the other one. Can you imagine losing a child in that way? Can you imagine being the first humans to ever witness the power of death… and in that way! The first one to see a lifeless body and to know that humans are capable of such things? Over jealousy?
And that’s probably when we first started to ask ourselves as humans, is this worth it? Why risk the pain? Why not stay alone and isolated and immune to the pain of someone else hurting us, or the shame and guilt of us hurting someone else? Wouldn’t it be easier to just be alone?
And that’s why so many of us respond to conflict by running away. We don’t like the way it feels, so we run.
But if you’ve ever felt alone, you know that’s not any better.
In extreme cases, people in solitary confinement for long periods of time will develop serious mental problems. They begin to lose the ability to initiate contact with other people, control their behavior, or organize their own lives.
In other words, loneliness restricts our ability to function normally. It makes us less human, which is an oppressive feeling.
And lonely people are all around us. 22% of Americans 65 and older are single or widowed with no local children or support system! Imagine how lonely this past year has been for them.
23,000 children age out of foster care every year and 6,000 of them are instantly homeless.
According to James 1, true religion is caring for widows and orphans – in other words, caring for people who don’t have people.
That’s because God doesn’t want people to be alone. We have to be with humans to be human. Sin makes it difficult. But we still need people.
And there’s good news, because God has a purpose in our relationships, even when they are difficult. Especially when they are difficult. And this is where Jesus comes in.
I want to read a few verses from Psalm 33.
20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
The same word from Genesis 2, “helper”, the word that described Eve, is used here for God. God describes Himself as our “helper”.
What Adam and Eve really lost because of sin was not just their relationship to each other. The deeper loss was their relationship with God.
What is it that keeps a pair of shoes together? If I tie my shoes together, then I can’t walk. I don’t need to do that. I just need to keep them on my feet. What keeps a pair of shoes together is the owner. If they are on my feet, then they are serving their purpose and they will also be together.
That’s the thing about relationships. God created us. He owns us. He knows how we were built to function. He understands our purpose better than we do and He is really the only one that can put it all back together. He is our Helper.
All the horizontal broken relationships in our lives are damaged because of the vertical broken relationship between us and God. Any hope we have of being reconciled has to begin with our being reconciled to God – the One who creates us… who owns us.
And the Bible’s solution is Jesus. He came down to us. He came looking for us like a lost pair of shoes. He moved into our neighborhood. He felt that loneliness we feel. He suffered the abuse of failed relationships. He felt the emptiness of abandonment. He felt alone.
In the final moments of the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 2 Corinthians 5 says that Jesus suffered in this way so that we could be reconciled to God.
And all I want us to see today is that God is far more committed to our relationships than we are. He is far more concerned with how we treat other people than we are.
We treat most of our relationships like they are optional. We decide when we want to engage and when we want to check out. But that’s not how God treats us. His commitment is real and perfect. He doesn’t give up on His people. He wants better for us.
The evidence of God’s work in our lives is what the Bible calls “the fruit of the Spirit”, which is basically just evidence that our relationships are getting healthier. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – none of those things is possible outside of relationships. We can’t live a godly life without people! It’s impossible.
You know what’s not a fruit of the spirit? Smart. Pretty. Athletic. Talented. All the things we seem to care about the most. Nothing wrong with any of those things, but you can do it alone. And what God wants most for us is stuff we can’t do alone.
God sees potential for our relationships to become healthy again. It won’t be perfect until the new earth, but He went to great lengths to get us back and to set things right.
Just a simple message today. You and I were made to engage with other people. Covid has made it far too easy to check out of real relationships. I can buy my groceries without having to talk to a real person. I can shop with a computer. I can see and hear people on a screen that I will never actually meet.
I can even listen to sermons and Christian music and never do it with another person around if I don’t want to. But we are slowly eroding our humanity in the process. We are engaging with screens more than we are engaging with people and we wonder why depression and anxiety are at epidemic levels.
Please hear me. The enemy is not technology. Jesus said very clearly, it is not what goes in us that defiles us, but what comes out of our hearts. I’m not blaming technology. The prescription is not a Facebook fast or going unplugged. Instead, look at your heart and ask why we are choosing easy and isolated over real and messy. And then, my prayer for us, is that we would come face to face with a God who was willing to get right in the middle of our lives, right in the mess, and be WITH us. That was the prophesied name for the Messiah – Immanuel. “God with us.”
That’s what we need. We need God to BE WITH us. We need Him to teach us how to BE WITH others. That is the most important service I think we can provide to people as a church. Offer them real relationships. We need to relearn how to be human, how to be with people – to laugh with people, cry with people, hug people…
Covid taught us that being with people is risky… but you know what? It has always been risky. But it’s still worth it.
“By this they will know you are my disciples: if you have love for one another.”