Howard Hughes, movie mogul, business magnate, philanthropist, and founder of the Hughes Aircraft Company as well as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, was one of the wealthiest men on earth. But toward the end of his life he became a recluse, locking himself away from all human contact.
Hughes was a man who had more money than he knew what to do with; but he had no one in his life who really loved him. And so, in the end, with all that money, he lived a miserable, lonely life, and finally died a miserable, lonely death.
It was not supposed to be that way – not for Hughes, and not for any of us. God knew the desire He built into every human being to love and be loved. So, He set up a community of love on the earth, called the church, and gave to it this commandment:
It is within this community, this family called the church, that any person can find the unconditional love we all crave. Jesus said that it is by demonstrating that sincere love for one another that any group of believers proves that they really belong to Him:
John 13:34-35 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
I know that not every church meets this ideal. But, in almost every community it is possible to find churches that do.
Some people believe that they can be faithful followers of Christ without being involved in a local church. But what they fail to see is that by being a recluse from the family of God on earth, not only do they miss out on the love God designed for them to receive, they also withhold the love He intended for them to give.
As Howard Hughes so tragically demonstrated, shutting yourself away from the spiritual family that is knit together by love for Christ and for one another is nothing less than a recipe for misery.