It’s haunted me ever since I heard the story. It happened about 800 years ago. The Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick the Second wanted to discover what language Adam and Eve spoke, in other words, what was the original human tongue. So he created a cruel experiment to find out.
He took babies from their mothers at birth, and gave them to nurses who could not speak in their hearing. But he did more than that. Beyond suckling and washing, these nurses could not give any affection either. And what happened? The monk Salimbene de Adam, who made a record of the experiment tells us. “But he (King Frederick) labored in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments." What happened is that all the children died.
Modern medicine calls this phenomenon, “failure to thrive.” But do you grasp what it means? Human beings simply cannot live without love. The medical doctor, Dean Ornish even wrote a book, Love and Survival, detailing all the studies that confirm this. As he put it there:
"I am not aware of any other factor in medicine that has a greater impact on our survival than the healing power of love and intimacy. Not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery."
In other words, the most powerful determinant to your health is relationships, is love and intimacy. And none of the researchers know why. Yet, here we are, beings who thrive on love; who cannot even live without it.
Why is that? More crucially, what do you need in your relationships not simply to survive, but to live the full and vibrant life God created you for? In the words you’re about to hear God shows you the way. Let’s listen and hear what God has to say.
Why do you need love? Why does every human being need it? God tells you. You need love, because love created you. Love created everything. And without love not only with God but with others, you can never be you. And that you can never fully exist, until you grasp how far God went to love you. What do I mean by love created everything?
Well, when you look at the Bible’s creation story, something weird happens. At first, it has the same rhythms, God created this and God created that. But when it comes to human beings, God says this instead. “Let us create human beings in our image.” And in those words, God is telling you something crucial about God. God is not an I. God is a we.
For Christians God is one God created out of the loving communion of three persons. What does that tell you? It tells you. At the heart of everything, at the heart of reality itself, lies relationship. Physics even confirms it. Just look at this table. When you look at it, you are not just seeing a table. You are seeing billions of particles all relating to each other in such a way as to create a table. Everything you see has billions, even trillions of these relationships. And when it comes to you, this relational reality, this living love goes to a whole new level. The story says that God created you in God’s image. That means, if God can’t be God without relationship, neither can you be you. You cannot be human without other humans. It’s impossible. That’s why a baby who has everything else but relationship cannot live.
And when God talks about the relationships inside God, let’s make it clear. God isn’t talking about some functional thing, like a team at work or how you know the person who delivers your mail. This God was living together in intimate communion.. To get what that means, look at the other creation story, the one you find in the first chapter of John.
It begins with these words:
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him, not one thing came into being…..
But it ends with these words:
It is God, the only Son, who is close to the Father’s bosom, who has made God known.
Do you get how intimate that is, close to the Father’s bosom? You don’t let just anybody rest on your bosom, do you? Your spouse or significant other can rest there, your child can, maybe even a close friend but that’s it. Yet that’s how the Bible describes the intimacy within God.
Too often you can think that God created everything like some solitary artist throwing paint on a canvas.
But that’s not what the Bible tells you. No, the Bible tells you. Creation looked far more like this - a joyful dance.
As one writer put it, You were created out of the laughter of the Trinity. That’s the intimacy God has, and that’s the intimacy God created you not only with God, but also with others.
It can never just be you and God. It always has to be you and God and others. Look at what the story tells us. God says, “It is not good that the Man should be alone.” But didn’t the Man have God? Wasn’t Adam intimately connected there? Yes. And that’s not all. This human being also had deep connection with nature, power, beauty, the richness of paradise, the list could go on. And God is saying here. That’s not enough. This human being needs more. This human being needs other human beings. God is saying. Not even paradise will satisfy you, not even God will satisfy you, if you don’t have relationships, if you don’t have friends. In fact you can’t become who God created you to be without them If God is an us, then you need an us too. You can’t do this alone. It’s impossible. Without relationships, you can’t even know yourself.
Have you ever listened to yourself on some recording, and said? “That doesn’t sound like me,” only to have a friend say to you. “Yes, it does.” And why is she right? She knows what you sound like, and you don’t. You can’t tell from inside. It’s the same reason, when you look at a picture of yourself, and you say. “That looks nothing like me.” But your friends, they just get kinda quiet. Why? They know. It does look like you. Even when you look in the mirror, you don’t really look. You look like this….
So if you come here and listen to the message without being in relationship with others hearing the same things, then you’re not really getting the message. You need others who can speak into your life what you are not seeing or hearing. On your own, you just won’t get it.
The writer C.S. Lewis had two close friends, Charles and Ronald. And when Charles died, Lewis was very sad, but he consoled himself by saying. “Well, at least I’ll have more of Ronald.” But he didn’t. He had less of Ronald. Why? Because certain parts of Ronald only Charles brought out, and without Charles, Lewis couldn’t pull those parts out on his own. No one person, he realized, can pull out the entire person. So when he lost Charles, he lost not only Charles. He lost a part of Ronald. Then Lewis asked himself. If that’s true of Ronald, how much more true is it of Jesus? And he realized. “I can never come close to knowing Jesus on my own. I need others to show me Jesus in ways I can never see, that I could never bring out myself.”
You can’t know God. You can’t even know yourself without serious relationship. And without those relationships, your relationship with God will never be what it needs to be.
A new follower of Christ came to visit an old friend who had been a Christian for years. He shared how his connection to God had grown less and less, and he wondered why. The old friend asked. How deeply connected are you to a Christian community? The man hemmed and hawed, but basically admitted, he really didn’t have time for that. The old friend didn’t say another word. He simply looked to the fire roaring before them, and pulled out an ember. At first the ember glowed with fire, but fairly quickly, the fire faded. And soon it became a cold piece of coal. And then the old friend put it back in the fire, and it flamed forth again. His visitor got the message.
You are that ember. But here’s the truth. Many of you come here each week, to hear a nice talk, listen to some great music, get some helpful inspiration and insight. But you don’t want to get involved. That’s too complicated. But this church only exists in order for you to get involved, to be in relationship with others. Coming to worship like that is like an ember wanting to be near the fire but not in it. If you want to glow, you gotta go in. But this passage has more to say to us than simply go in. It tells us some disturbing news about what we will meet there once we do.
When God sees that Adam is lonely, what does God do? God creates a suitable companion. And who is that suitable companion? It’s a woman. Now lots of folks over the years have read many things into that choice. But almost always those interpretations ignore the obvious.
In creating woman, God is creating someone like Adam, yet not like Adam at all. And when the Bible describe Eve as a helper, the Bible isn’t saying that God created an errand runner for Adam. No, this word, helper often describes God, as in for example, God, our help and our salvation. So God creates someone equal to Adam, yet at the same time, profoundly different from Adam. And that tells you a lot about the kind of relationships you need.
You don’t need relationships just with people who think like you, who act like you, who agree with you on everything. You need people different from you, even perplexingly different. For example, this past Friday, Inauguration Day, there are people here, who were elated, and there are people here, who were depressed. And guess what. If you were depressed, you need to get to know someone who was elated, and if you were elated, you need to get to know someone who was depressed. After all, why do we call the church a family? It’s because you don’t get to pick your family. And you will find here people who are different from you in their thoughts, in their personalities, in their attitudes, and you need them more than you would like to admit. Their difference will stretch you. It will grow you. It will help you to become the you God created you to be.
Yet, let’s be honest. That may be the ideal, but it’s usually not the reality. Even here, folks often stick with their own. And even there, they likely hide behind facades of niceness, rather than get up the courage to lay those defenses down. They have friendships yes, but do they go deep? Do they get intimate in the way God describes here? Probably not. And why is that? It’s because of two words here that describe the relationship that Adam and Eve had.
The Bible tells us that they were naked and unashamed. What that means is that Adam and Eve were utterly exposed and vulnerable with each other in every way. And they had no shame about that, no discomfort, no fear at all. But as you’ll see next week, a tragic fall occurred that changed all that. And when it did, the first thing Adam and Eve did was hide. They hid from each other, and they hid from God. And human beings have been hiding ever since. We almost never get naked with others so to speak, and yet even so, we often still find ourselves trapped in fear and shame. But God didn’t intend you to be that way at all. God made you for intimacy, even the liberating intimacy that God has with God.
How do you get that there? How do you find the freedom to have that sort of intimacy? You look to the one who was stripped naked for you. When Jesus went on that cross, he went naked. And to be exhibited naked like that was utterly humiliating and shaming. And in his nakedness, Jesus had no intimacy. He lost in that dark place all relationship, all love, all connection even with God. And why did Jesus do all that? He loved you. He did it to bring you back in the dance. He did it to free you to be once again naked and unashamed. And the more you let that love, his love grasp you, the more Jesus will free you. And in his embrace, your fears and insecurities will fade. In the fearlessness of his love, you will find the courage to come out of hiding. In the power of his love, you will lay your defenses down, and you will discover the wondrous freedom that comes with being naked and unashamed.