We have a biological, social and psychological limitation regarding community. The neo-cortex can actually only assist in our facilitating well, about 100 to 150 people in any real relationship context. I would argue this may be even more reduced in our age as tech and social networks have eaten a slice of that limited neocortex “pie.”
If our relational capacity is limited yet each one of those connections has extreme levels of shaping power then our need for strategic network management is critical. Who and what are we plugged into? What is swallowing our time and lives?
If personal ministry to others involving our identification with their needs and hurts is a part of God’s plan, then preserving pieces of the proverbial pie is essential. How can I sit in a hospital with someone who is ill or visit with a person who needs encouragement or mentoring if I have over-committed myself? Guarding your time is not just a good idea for personal health it’s vital as it relates to actually being an expression of God’s love in the earth.
If I see a person in need of the world’s good and close my heart to him how can the love of God be in me? As a person called to extreme levels of generosity my capacity needs to be enlarged. Our ability to empathize, according to research, seems to be decaying. Our patience, our understanding, our willingness to take the time and help is all sinking per the overload and abuse of our poor neocortex and our unwillingness to stop or unplug.
A steady diet of entertainment and self-focused content via networks engineered for that very purpose has soured our nature. Look at any child and what happens to their brain per the over indulgence of media and then consider an entire culture addicted and absorbed in it for decades. The decay of our ability and in many instances even loss of certain social skills is depressing.
Love does not sit idle, spending itself on itself with a cynical scowl toward need or an indifference toward hurt. Love spends itself on the other. It purges self-indulgent patterns that undermine its ability to give and be present. It works to understand. It restrains itself and waits. It holds its tongue and looks for the beauty in another. It hopes! Its purpose is people and therefore no person can stand in its way. It’s not looking for peace by skirting human issues. It was fashioned for human suffering, to be found present in it with complete readiness.
One might argue that it is hatred to be consumed. It is hatred to be unavailable. It is hatred to hold onto. It is hateful to not hope. To be tied down and have no time for people is to say your life is led and fueled by a force other than God. This may sound extreme but the consequences of our being “out of play” in a world that needs our presence is destructive.
We are injuring ourselves and others by not taking care of our connections and ensuring our capacity is preserved. If we want to see a stronger community emerge we have to become able contributors to the integrity of that network, otherwise, we become an active agent in the breakdown of that very same network we long for.