We enjoy helping people. Hearts that belong to Jesus enjoy helping people. On a hot afternoon in a hospital parking lot I saw a nurse standing by her car. She just had finished her shift, and her car's battery was dead. No problem. I enjoyed helping her start her car.

Last Friday morning my truck started grudgingly. That afternoon it almost did not start. In the hospital parking lot, it started quickly. When I left a store, it started quickly. Then it would not leave the gas station. Suddenly, I needed help. Helping is no problem. Asking for help is a problem. When you need the help of strangers, an incredible sense of loneliness surfaces.

In Jesus, God provided us the practical. Is that surprising? The God who made us in His image does not understand our needs? Have we forgotten that God addressed our needs in Jesus? Consider just one practical thing God did for us in Jesus. He destroyed the loneliness of need. You need forgiveness? understanding? compassion? mercy? grace? kindness? Are you overwhelmed by guilt? by the need to redirect life? Such needs produce a special loneliness.

We cannot remove theology from Christianity. Theology is the study about God. We cannot remove doctrine from Christianity. Biblically, doctrine is sound or healthy teaching. We cannot remove ritual and tradition from Christianity. Attempts to do so create new rituals and traditions. In time, new practices become different rituals and traditions. Religiously, the problem is not seen in the things we remove from Christianity. The problem is seen in our attempt to reduce Christianity to abstract theology, impersonal doctrines, rigid rituals, and legalistic traditions. Stated in simple terms: we take what God made incredibly practical and change it into the astoundingly impractical.

God addressed that loneliness in powerful, practical ways. His practical answer is based on His promises. His promises are empowered by Jesus' death, blood, and resurrection. Forgiveness and newness of life is real. Sin is destroyed. In these God creates a daily existence enveloped in His compassion, mercy, and grace. God perfectly cares for all the needs that we cannot.

Then God gave us "one another." Remember the New Testament's "one another" statements? God's practical solution for destroying the loneliness of need: He gave us His love to heal us. He gave us His son to save us. He gave us each other to sustain "one another."

Many Christians fear the church's rejection. Many Christians live in the loneliness of need. When Christians struggle with that fear and loneliness, the divine "practical" has become the human "impractical." In Jesus, with one another, we must address fear and loneliness.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 7 November 1999

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