There is a common trope in a lot of media called the “Lone Wolf”. It’s the person that has to do everything on their own. They think that sharing their struggles, divulging their secrets, or asking for help is a weakness; or the knowledge would hurt those around them. They are an island, disconnected from the world around them.
This trope drives me nuts.
I’ll be reading a book or watching a TV show and literally saying out loud, “JUST TELL THEM. JUST TALK TO THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU. THEY CAN HELP YOU.” Seeing characters struggle more, have more problems, fall into greater trials, all because they refuse to just talk to the people around them is something I find maddening.
I watched the show Arrow when it was on Netflix. The main character, Oliver Queen, very much fell into the Lone Wolf trope. He spent so much time saying things like, “I have to do this on my own”, or “I just can’t tell them”, or whatever else. If I wasn’t such a fan of DC Comics, I probably would have given up on the series pretty quickly.
Who would have imagined that sharing your struggles, instead of trying to bear them alone, would be a good thing?
But something happened after season 3.
Oliver came to the conclusion that keeping secrets and not communicating was bad for him (gasp!), and that he needed to be more open with the people around him. I no longer sat staring at the screen, pulling my hair out because of inane conflicts.
Oliver shared his struggles and he and his team worked together to overcome them.
The show got so much better.
There’s a section in the book of Hebrews where the author (fun fact, we don’t know who wrote Hebrews) is addressing a problem among the Hebrew Christians. It appears that now that they were forgiven of their sins and didn’t have to perform sacrifices anymore, the Hebrews had stopped meeting together. If the sin problem was “taken care of”, per se, why did they need to keep meeting? Many Hebrews ended up trying to live their faith on their own, trying to overcome sin on their own…basically becoming Christian Lone Wolves.
The author of Hebrews knew this was a bad idea.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Hebrews 10:24-27
The author (I feel like I’m talking about Prince circa 1993-2000) has a dire warning: If we don’t have other people stirring us up, there can be a harsh outcome. Christians need to meet together – to remind each other of the good works we should be doing, and keeping one another accountable with the sins we’re struggling with.
Now, let’s be perfectly clear. This was different than the letters they wrote to one another at the time. Sure, Paul, John, Peter, and our nameless author all wrote letters to try and encourage and build up their recipients, but text on a page was not enough. The author insisted that they meet together, that they gather in person.
For nerd culture, the internet is a wonderful place. When in average gathering place such as a school or a workplace, our hobbies may seem fringe or even frowned upon, the internet holds an endless amount of communities that share and support our love for TTRPGs or video games or whatever else. But this also makes it very easy to walk away from our physical communities and rely on the internet for our primary relationships.
The author of Hebrews would be displeased.
As we always say, online communities are wonderful. It feels so nice to have safe places where we can joyously share our hobbies, free of judgement.
But when it comes to growing in our lives as Christians, when it comes to being discipled, when it comes to accountability, we cannot neglect meeting together.
Statistics, psychological studies, basic anecdotal evidence, and more all show that physical communities are vital for mental health and growing in faith.
We can’t be Christian lone wolves; sin will entangle us so quickly if we don’t have other believers to meet with. Keep your online communities, but also join physical ones.