Proverbs 18:1: Isolation
Isolation in the medical world is a good thing, but isolation in the church is a bad thing. God lives in community and so should we. Sin drives us into ourselves away from all others. The statement that individualism is sinful and community is holy is generally true, but there are some necessary qualifications that must be made. We do not mean community at the cost of individuality but individualism which is a dominant humanistic influence in the 21st century. And, we do not approve of all things done in the name of community because there are many abuses, extremes and ungodly ways of being a group. The verse before us is Proverbs 18:1, ‘Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.’ This is one of those emboldened verses that has always stood for me as it has cut to the heart of the sinful condition as it highlights a typical and important pattern of behaviour. In our sinfulness we tend to individualism, withdrawal, isolation, or as Luther put it, because of sin we are bent in on ourselves. The hand that is supposed to be extended out to God in worship, love and service, strokes and serves self. That hand intended to be extended to our neighbours in love is self-serving. Even doctors today are confirming the community oriented nature of our existence. Chronically isolated people have a higher blood pressure and are more prone to developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. John Donne was right when he wrote, ‘No man is an island entire of itself.’ So today I would like us to consider the general trend in all of our hearts towards isolation.
We are not going to address the involuntary isolation of loneliness, imprisonment, Alzheimer’s and other situations where isolation is forced upon us and not sinfully chosen. Much of what we have to say about healthy community will no doubt bear upon those conditions and guide us when we encounter those in them. We also want to clarify that there are healthy forms of isolation that are legitimate like Matthew 6:9, ‘But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ This has been called solitude as opposed to isolation by some and is a necessary form of separating oneself for private prayer and a nurturing of our relationship with God. There is a necessity for married couples to get alone, for families to be apart alone, even churches to spend some time as a congregation. We want to focus on the ways our sin which bends in on itself, nurtured and nourished in the environment of 21st century humanistic individualism, finds pockets of isolation. Since we are all sinful and bent in on ourselves we want to identify the various forms of isolation, eradicate them and nurture the healthy connectedness that was intended for our God-imaging existence.