Several years ago when we lived in Tennessee, my wife was visiting her parents in Georgia. She went to go inside after being outdoors with the children and she called for our dog, but he didn’t come. After searching around, she walked behind her father’s wood working shop and discovered a coyote holding Chipper, our little 6 pound shih tzu (who was 10 years old at the time of the attack), in his mouth. She immediately started clapping her hands and as she approached the coyote, he dropped Chipper and ran off into the woods. After a tedious surgery and a hefty bill at the local veterinarian’s office, little Chipper survived. After more than 6 years, the same exact thing happened to my in-laws’ dog just a couple of weeks ago. He was rescued by my father-in-law behind his shop where a coyote had him firmly clamped in his jaws in a death grip. After a trip to the same veterinarian, their dog looks as if he will make a full recovery as well.
As I was considering the coyote’s hunting strategy, it occurred to me that they prey upon the isolated family pet or animal that becomes separated from its mother. Isolation is the key strategy for the coyote. As we consider the Christian life, we must be reminded that isolation is the key strategy for the devil as well. If he can somehow create circumstances and division that leads to isolation, he will move in for the attack. How many times have you watched people become isolated due to relationship problems, job responsibilities, or other factors that create a distance between an individual and their church? In many cases, that specific case doesn’t end well. The person ends up drifting away or joins another church looking for a close bond with another group of Christians. However, if it’s a broken relationship that created the isolation, that same pattern will likely follow the person from church to church. Satan is good at what he does, and he places much of his emphasis upon creating division and isolation.
What Causes Isolation?
There are a multiplicity of reasons that isolation can creep into a Christian’s life, and not all of the open doors for isolation are sinful. A good job promotion can be the cause or a sick family member who requires much attention and care. There are sinful patterns that create isolation from the church as well, and obviously both the isolation and the root cause need to be addressed properly. As with many other sins, isolation from the church can sneak up on a family without notice.
Is it sinful to have relationships with people outside the church? Absolutely not, but it is sinful to neglect the church and to put your primary focus on relationships within your place of employment, business circles, or recreational activities. Isolation is one of those sins that can go undetected for a while, and before long, there is a sudden coldness and unhealthy wall built up between an individual and their church family.
In short, isolation is the devil’s oldest trick in his black book of sinful temptations. Remember the words of the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth in his second letter, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). If Satan can lure a person off into an isolated wilderness, he will likely do much damage to that individual before the person can escape. This happens in a person’s thought life, a person’s relationships, a person’s finances, and on the Internet in the dark hours of the night. Beware – Satan’s goal is to destroy you (1 Pet. 5:8).
Why Is isolation From the Church Dangerous?
- Isolation creates distance from the church body.
- Isolation kills community.
- Isolation makes a person or family vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.
- Isolation can cause a person to make improper decisions based on fleshly motives.
- Isolation from the church opens up the mind for influence from the world, the flesh, and the devil.
- Isolation can lead a person to depression.
- Isolation inhibits ministry.
- Isolation makes a person or family self-serving and self-centered.
- Isolation can often cause a person or family to have a negative attitude toward the church.
- Isolation creates a rogue attitude of independence that’s misguided and deceptively false.
- Isolation builds insulation that prevents accountability.
- Isolation creates loneliness and intensifies the burdens of life.
Addressing the Problem of Isolation
Just as with any other sin, isolation must be addressed or it will continue to separate and divide. The mortification of sin is a necessary practice and ongoing commitment of sanctification in the life of a believer. Isolation must be put to death just as other sins that can be harmful to the church of Jesus Christ. The individual or family who has become isolated must be corrected by the church. They must not be allowed to remain in a state of perpetual isolation. Ultimately, the determining factor will rest upon the isolated family’s response to this particular sin. Will they admit it? Will they recover well within the church as opposed to continuing to drift away?
We must learn to see the church as a blessing from God rather than an inconvenience. We must never look at the church as a violation to our spiritual privacy fence. We were never called to walk the journey of the Christian life alone. Surround yourself with gospel preaching, gospel singing, and gospel friends who will be honest with you. When the church is honest with you, receive it. Take heed so that you will not fall (1 Cor. 10:12). We all need the church.
Addressing the problem involves a church committed to holding members accountable and Christians who are willing to receive correction. Sadly is the case today that many Christians live their lives behind tall privacy fences beyond the gaze and interaction of any outside influence. This must not be the case as a Christian. We are all prone to wander off from the path. In certain cases it may be a sinful temptation or merely laziness. Just as John Bunyan depicted in The Pilgrim’s Progress as Christian and Hopeful followed Vain-Confidence off of the true path onto a different path that eventually led them astray. They became lost and eventually were captured by Giant Despair. They found themselves prisoners in the dungeon of Doubting Castle. In their despair, Hopeful said, “O that I had kept on the true way!” Avoiding isolation is a constant work of sanctification. Robert Robinson wrote these words in his hymn in 1758, and we sing it often as a reminder of the danger of walking off from God:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.