Thurman is aware that as we slip away into alone time, into solitude, it can be so alluring that we bifurcate ourselves, our public life from our spiritual life. And he says that’s a problem. It’s tempting to let the quiet personal reflection time simply stay private. But Thurman echos the sentiment in 1 John 4:20-21… “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” (NRSV)
Mark Allen Powell writes a chapter on the Johannine letters in his book Introducing the New Testament explaining that the three letters addressed the outbreak of conflict and schism in a network of house churches in the first century CE. Things haven’t changed much in the reality of living as individuals within a church. The schism that brought us Protestantism and later developments of denominations came from minds who interpreted scripture differently and had different thoughts about how to live as people of faith.
The challenge for all time has been how to live a life pleasing to God and have to deal with all these other people too. So, we climb into our prayer closets, or take a yoga class, or read psalms, or light candles and sit silently in an effort to either escape the world, or figure out how to live in it fully.
Rather than slipping away into seclusion for selfish reasons let us ask the Spirit to prepare us in ways that serve our work, while protecting our hearts so that we gain contentment in our walk with God.