My grandfather loved Country music. Whenever I was at his house or riding with him in his car, he turned on Country music. There was no other genre of music. And the song that always seemed to be playing during my childhood was Willie Nelson's, "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys."
Now, if you know the lyrics to that one, you also know that a seven-year-old boy shouldn't be listening to that song. However, as a young lad, that song imbued in me the idea that masculinity and heroics required that a person rely only on himself. After all, most of our heroes are solo operators. Clint Eastwood didn't need any sidekicks, either as a cowboy or as Dirty Harry. Rambo wasn't much of a conversationalist and didn't have use for a community of pals. And while the Lone Ranger had Tonto, the only thing his partner ever said was, "Mmm, kemosabe." There aren't many inspirational community-driven heroes.
Humans Are Relational Beings
I've since learned that there is a problem with this over-emphasis on self-reliance: it just doesn't reflect reality. Human beings are not meant to be solo operatorsmdash;were weren't designed that way. In fact, we were created with a relational design. You don't have to dig too deep into the Bible before you bump into the idea that we are relational beings.
In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible we read, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in OUR image.'" Did you catch that? The pronoun "us" is key. For many years I thought God was talking to the angels and suggesting to them that humans would be created in the image of God and of angels. But no, the "us" is the first glimpse into a doctrine we call the Trinity.
God, who exists in a perpetual state of community we know of as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, said to himself, "Let 'us' make man in our image." God is talking to himself. Let me make this plain: the God who exists in community made us in to be like him. He made us with a community gene. It is hardwired in our genetic code.
The scriptures are even more blunt. God placed Adam in the garden and gave him work. But in this perfect environment there was something that was not perfect. Adam had God, he had work, but he lacked community. No suitable "companion" was found. God said, "It's not good for man to be alone."
God wired Adam to need other people. Many of us think of this passage as primarily teaching about marriage. But it's not. It's primarily a lesson on community. It's not required for a person to be married to have a healthy, happy life. I have single friends who live healthy, happy, full lives. They would be offended if we told them they should be married if they want God's best for them. In fact, the apostle Paul commends single Christians to stay single! No, this passage teaches us primarily that God has wired us for relationships.
But it's not just in Genesis 1 we see this. Moses needed a community, which he found in Aaron and later Joshua. David needed a community we know as the Mighty Men. Elijah needed a community that he eventually found in Elisha. Nehemiah needed a community to help rebuild the wall and reestablish a nation. And dare I say it; Jesus needed a community, which he found in the disciples.
But if we're wired for community why is it so hard? Shouldn't it be natural? Shouldn't it be organic?