“Welcome to the dying room!”—Within the walls of a Chinese orphanage, Anne held her breath as the guide pushed open the door. The phrase ran through her mind like a broken recorder- “Welcome to the dying room!” She had heard people talk about such rooms, their existence rumored like that of the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot, but here she staring at the endless rows of children for herself. Replacing the familiar noises of children laughing, crying, and playing upon her arrival, was now the most ominous thing of all: silence. The looks on the face of each infant was the same—“withdrawn and distant, lethargic and immobile.” The cause of their impending death was no deadly disease or rare medical affliction, but instead the common and every diagnosis of “A Failure to Thrive.” Each night two nurses would work the large crowded infant wing of the orphanage: changing one diaper and giving one bottle before disappearing to care for another one of the other 350 cribs. Each week, a few more babies would disappear! The cause was clear- after months without any physical contact, social interaction, anyone to care, hold or rock them the baby was left in the semi-comatose state to wither away! As Anne walked out of the room, tears ran down her face uncontrollably, the images engrained, emblazoned into her memory of the empty stares, the loveless lives, she vowed to do something!
This epidemic of dying rooms with children “failing to thrive” should be impossible to ignore—leading many to cry out for justice from watch-dog groups to 60 Minutes, and yet far too often we ignore the same “failure to thrive” that wreaks havoc in our spiritual lives! In our text from 1 John 1:1-10, we seek to go from a failure to thrive to a spiritual future that is flourishing! Yet, just like for those poor babies in the “dying room,” the thing they need and crave the most is what we need the most spiritually as well…
RELATIONSHIP- In our text, listen to the apostle John who is writing, as his life is coming to an end, to help straighten out early believers who are failing to thrive in the midst other Gnostic teachings which held that truth was hidden in the mind alone! (1 John 1:1-3) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
John lays out the goal for all people who at times are withering in their faith rather than flourishing writing so “that you may have fellowship with us;” but also with God! In the Greek, the word translated fellowship is koinonia, and it means simply to “hold something in common.” So if relationship with both each other and with God is the goal how do we get there? So he starts with a common core we can all grasp and build off of—going back to the Word made flesh Jesus Christ—God has made himself known through Jesus Christ, saying we don’t have a secret truth that is imaged, invented, or contrived—but instead a truth that lived and walked among us—My eyes have seen! My hands have touched! My lips have proclaimed! My ears have heard!
John wastes no time taking us from the goal of koinonia through the means of Christ. Yet so often we see people who know what they want but they aren’t sure how to get it, and the frustration that follows! In fact, The Mars One Project sign-up sheet helped crystalize the problem. The project is asking for applicants to establish a permanent Mars colony– forcing all applicants to leave behind everything and start a new life not in a new county, country, continent, but another area of the cosmos! [You cannot sign up other people—put your smart phones away!] Remarkably, worldwide over 200,000 people, including 30,000 Americans paid the $38 application fee and signed up for blast off! One guy who said, life 352 million miles away on a freezing and radiation rich red rock “couldn’t be worse than life here!” Others are willing to leave behind husbands or wives, children and careers to make history! —-SOMETHING FOR MANY PEOPLE IS MISSING!
The answer is this radical koinonia—community—relationship with purpose! What we find is that X marks the spot. Graphically, this naturally enough begins to look like a cross. When we have relationship with God in place—we can read Scripture about God, pray to God, but when we receive the Holy Spirit from God—we are given vertical relationship, that begins to change, impact, and improve our relationships on a horizontal plain. In fact Jesus confirms this in Matthew 22:37-38 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all yourself and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we are able to move closer to loving God with our entire being, we gradually begin to love others as if they were just as important as us! Instead of wishing you could send everyone to Mars, we are tapped with new concern for the hungry, poor, mentally unstable, elderly and sick, the helpless infant or the unbeliever which comes directly from the CROSS—literally and figuratively.