Thursday, May 11th, 2023
“…I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Loneliness is as deadly as smoking. That is what the Surgeon General of the United States said last week in an 85-page report.
“Given the significant health consequences of loneliness and isolation, we must prioritize building social connection the same way we have prioritized other critical public health issues such as tobacco, obesity and substance use disorders.”
He went on to address some myths about loneliness, addressing the need for relationships that go deep. “It’s when we get into the deeper levels of sharing and understanding one another that we build strong connections.”
All of this should make sense to us. We need each other. We are created to be in relationship- with one another and with God.
For many of us, church is the place where those deep connections with Christ and one another are formed. On our darkest days, we know Christ is always with us. We have a network of people who serve with us that pray for us, visit us, are there for us.
But for some, church is a place where we are lonely. Surrounded by people that never really accept us but smile as we enter.
I have said this many times before, there is a difference between belonging and welcoming. If our churches are truly to be places where people can encounter the love of Jesus Christ, they must do more than simply offer words of welcome. Helping someone know they truly belong doesn’t come from a program. It comes from a revolution of the heart.
And it doesn’t matter if they look like us, or dress like us or vote like us, we are called to love and accept them for who they are, just as Jesus loves and accepts us.
Let us never forget that loneliness doesn’t have just one face. It can be masked by a smile, a laugh or the appearance of having it all. Right now, our nation and our world are filled with people longing to find that deep connection. As the church, we can meet their need and end this pandemic of loneliness. All you have to do is to listen and to love.
This is how you fill your churches with people. You do not need a new committee to let someone know they belong. Don’t settle for offering a welcome. Be a community of belonging. Belong to Christ, belong to one another and meet the world’s pain with love.
(The report can be viewed in full here.)