I came across a story some time ago that floored me. I was literally amazed that such an occurrence could happen in this day and time.
It seems that one November day in 2002, Jim Sulkers, a 53-year-old retired municipal worker from Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada), climbed into bed, pulled the covers up, and died.
Nearly two years later, on August 25, 2004, police who had been called by concerned relatives entered Sulkers’ apartment and found his body in a mummified state. Everything else in his tidy one-bedroom apartment was intact, although the food in his fridge was spoiled and his wall calendar was two years out of date.
In attempting to discover the “why” of this death, authorities found that Mr. Sulkers’ death went undiscovered for several reasons: he was reclusive, estranged from family members, and had a medical condition that prevented his body from decomposing and emitting odors.
In addition, automatic banking deposited his disability pension and withdrew his rent, utilities, and other expenses as they came due.
The question that came to my mind as I read that story was, “How on earth could that happen? Is it possible that someone, even in our generation, could be so very much alone that he could just pull up the covers over his head and die, and no one on earth would notice for two years?”
One expert on media and technology and the 21st century, after commenting that technology has enabled people to remain “virtually alive” even after dying, drove home the point by saying, “What we have here is a serious lack of community.”
Dun and Bradstreet surveyed 1,200 executives who had been fired from their jobs. They wanted to ask and answer the question, “Why do executives fail?” They were surprised at the results of this survey.
These executives were not fired for their lack of marketing savvy or financial understanding. They were not terminated for their failures in the area of product knowledge.
Over 85% of these executives were fired from their job because of their poor relationship skills.
They could not get along with people. They did not know the meaning of “community.”
In this age of COVID-19 and social distancing, if we relate at all, we have embraced elbow bumps. People have been forced into isolation. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy for someone you know, in your neighborhood, or in your church, to go for two years and no one would call or check up on her?
And yet, somehow in this era of the mega-church, where bigger means better, more people, more programs, churches large and small must not lose their sense of “community,” their sense of relationships, their idea of what it takes to get along with and work beside one another.
The early church in the book of Acts in the New Testament seemed to understand that. We read in Acts 2:46-47 how they were “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.” And the Lord was “adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
They were with one mind, being together, working together, and God was honoring their sense of community and relationships.
He made that same provision for us as well.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, we read how important each individual is to the entire body of Christ, how the smaller and weaker members of the body are every bit as important to the proper functioning and the health and vitality of the body as the larger and stronger members are.
We read there that God has uniquely gifted each one of us to minister to the larger body as a whole in the area of our giftedness, and that if we are missing or idle in ministry to the body, the body will miss us and our giftedness.
The point of the whole matter is that nothing – absolutely nothing – happens outside of relationships. I don’t care how advanced we become in our technology, we will never progress far enough to overcome our need for Christ or for one another.
And the body of Christ needs us for that very reason.
In one of his books, Rick Warren tells the story of Liz Curtis Higgs. This lady was one of the best-known disc jockeys in America, and she lived quite a … wild lifestyle without God. She had gone through relationships with men like water, and having been hurt by so many so often, she became a militant feminist.
But she had a Christian girlfriend who kept befriending her and inviting her to church. She gave in one Sunday when the pastor had this message for the men in the congregation: “Husbands — you sacrifice yourself; you give yourself for your wives just as Jesus Christ sacrificed himself for the church and died for her.”
Who is asked to give their life up? The husband.
When Liz heard that part, she leaned over to her friend and said with a little cynicism, “I’d gladly give myself to any man if I knew he would die for me.” And her friend leaned over and said, “Liz, there is a man who loved you enough to die for you. His name is Jesus Christ. That’s how much he loves you.”
Not long after that that Liz dropped her guard, surrendered her life to God in love, and became a believer. Because of her relationship with her friend, today she is a well-known Christian author and speaker.
It’s true: nothing happens outside of relationships.
Everyone makes a difference! No one stands alone!
You are important to God and to God’s family!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.