The Answer to the Crisis of Intimacy
Christopher Y. Kim | May 2, 2019 | 3 MIN READ
Do you feel lonely? If so, you’re not alone.
Despite our ability to share our day-to-day lives through Facebook timelines and Instagram stories, the quality of many relationships have suffered.
The Barna Group reported in 2017 that one in five adults regularly feel lonely. A 2018 survey by health insurer Cigna found “nearly 50 percent of respondents reporting that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes.” Though we are connected 24/7 through our phones and the Internet, we are feeling more disconnected than ever. It seems we are facing a crisis of intimacy.
What’s the solution to such loneliness? Many are turning to online communities, hook-up culture, and the instant gratification of entertainment. The late David Foster Wallace noticed this and commented, “The interesting thing is why we’re so desperate for this anesthetic against loneliness.” Perhaps we’re all lost, searching for something to numb us against the feelings of aloneness and despair.
What solution can Christianity offer to the postmodern, relativistic, anti-religious world? Even we can struggle with loneliness. Yet we also have hope. We know the answer has always been, and will always be, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know that only the Gospel can truly liberate us from the crisis of intimacy and the loss of relationship.
So what are truths found in Scripture that help us not only feel intimate with God, but create a culture of intimacy and community with others?
1. We are truly known by God
The Bible tells us that God knows us and understands our thoughts and our motives. He is the one who has created us and knew us before we were even formed (Psalm 139:1-6, 13-16; 1 Chronicles 28:9). Nothing is hidden from His sight (Hebrews 4:13).
To me, that’s frightening! Every thought, before I even have them, being known by someone? Who would want to be that intimate with anyone? It’s scary. To have people know your deepest desires, secrets, and thoughts is devastating, and you might start asking: What if they don’t accept me? What if they don’t love me?
2. We are truly loved by God
And yet if we want to be truly loved, don’t we need to be truly known?
Regarding true intimacy, Tim Keller writes in The Meaning of Marriage, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything.”
To be loved without being fully known is mere infatuation. It’s relatively easy to say you love someone until you see his or her character flaws, bad habits, and deep secrets.
But God, knowing all of our imperfections and merits, knowing all of our desires and needs, knowing all of our virtues and vices, accepts us in Christ through the cross, not by our efforts.
The Scriptures tell us that God loved us and chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) and that his love for us can never be broken (Romans 8:37-39). Our shame, our disappointments, our lack of intimacy can never bring a charge against God’s elect (Romans 8:31-35).
As John Piper said, “Your salvation is like a chain that extends back into eternity and forward into eternity. It is an unbreakable chain.”
To be loved but not known is infatuation. To be known but not loved is utter fear. To be known yet loved is true love. This reality found in Christ is the solution in navigating through a society facing a crisis of intimacy.
So how can we live out these truths and preach them to ourselves and the world?
First, we must remember that we are called to be the church. God has brought us to intimacy and relationship with Him, and a large part of living out that relationship is by doing it in covenant community. Perhaps we have not been vigilant in leading the discussion regarding loss of intimacy and inviting those who are lonely into our friendships and families.
Second, Christians ought not to be afraid of vulnerability, but rather we should embrace it. We believe in a deeply personal, loving God who dares to be vulnerable. God stepping into time and space to die a humiliating death. What could be more vulnerable than that?
If being made into the likeness of Christ is truly important to us, then we should imitate Christ, even in His vulnerability. This will look different depending on local contexts. But one way to be intentional and build intimate relationships is to be proactively honest and open to our neighbors.
Instead of retreating to our comfortable, private homes, we ought to practice hospitality, show self-sacrificial love, and be generous to others, as Christ has done for us. Instead of simply liking a post or scrolling through Instagram stories, we can start conversations. Instead of posting “perfect” pictures, we can be honest about our struggles and doubts.
Then we can truly be known, and then we can truly be loved. So let us pursue intimacy both inside and outside the church, knowing that God ultimately knows us and loves us through his Son, Jesus Christ.
Christopher Y. Kim is the youth pastor of Sanctification Presbyterian Church in Gardena, California. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Religion at Liberty University and is pursuing his Master of Divinity at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, California. He loves playing guitar, music, and cooking.