“Wilson, where are you? Wilson! Wilson! I’m sorry! I’m sorry, Wilson. Wilson, I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Wilson! I can’t!”
If you’ve seen Cast Away, this scene is etched in your memory. Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks) is on his rudimentary raft trying to paddle to freedom when his beach volleyball companion falls off and begins floating away. Stranded on a deserted island for four years, the volleyball is Noland’s only friend. Your heart breaks as Noland’s inanimate friend drifts away.
Cast Away is a great movie not only about the triumph of the human spirit, but also about the reality that we are made to live in community. It can be watched as an extended meditation on God’s words in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” The very first thing our Triune God says is “not good” in creation is our aloneness.
GOD IS COMMUNITY
That isn’t surprising. God is community. Our Triune God has existed in community for eternity. Creation is an overflow of that love. Theologian Michael Reeves explains what it means that God is three-in-one, and not just one, “Everything changes when it comes to the Father, Son and Spirit. Here is a God who is not essentially lonely, but who has been loving for all eternity as the Father has loved the Son in the Spirit. Loving others is not a strange or novel thing for this God at all; it is the root of who he is.”[i]
When the apostle John says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8), he is speaking about the very nature of our three-in-one God. And so, when God creates us in his image, we are created to image this love. Theologian John Owen wrote God is “the fountain and prototype of all love… And all love in the creation was introduced from this fountain, to give a shadow and resemblance of it.”[ii] We were made to reflect the active love of God that has existed for eternity.
We need community to be who God has intended us to be.
Life is better together.
THE MESS OF COMMUNITY
The challenges to this invitation abound. I write this post shortly after watching a Facebook interaction between two friends end with hurtful shots being exchanged. As soon as we enter any form of community, there is guaranteed to be social discomfort, cliques, and hurt feelings.
This shouldn’t surprise us. When sin enters the picture, community gets messy. God creates Eve for Adam in Genesis 2 to create the first human community. In Genesis 3, as soon as Adam and Eve have sinned, that community splinters. Adam blames Eve. While God has created us for community, sin is magnified and multiplied in community.
The challenge of community has become even greater during this quarantined season. Kids are going to school online, we are meeting online, and now we have to worship and gather in community online? It’s exhausting. Last night had a delicate conversation with loved ones over the phone. It’s a conversation six months ago we would have had face-to-face, but these are different times. As we spoke the hurdles were apparent: we couldn’t look into their eyes, give them hugs, or read their body language. It’s easy to want to just throw in the towel and slink back into our respective bunkers. Netflix always understands me.
Let’s fight through the messiness because something better awaits us on the other side. Let’s push through the discomfort and annoyance because we need others and they need us. Let’s remember, life is better together. It’s who God is and who he has made us to be.
[i] Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity; An Introduction to the Christian Faith (Downers Grove: IVP Academic), 2012, 41.
[ii] John Owen, “Christologia,” in The Works of John Owen (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth), 1850-1855, 1:144.