Grace Slan lived and died in a secret world where time stood still.
When police entered her two-room flat in London they thought they had stepped into another era, a museum exhibit or a film set.
Outside, planes buzzed overhead and traffic jammed city streets. Inside, the 81-year-old woman lived in a dark, solitary world without a bathroom, electricity, or any modern convenience.
She had no known relatives or friends and had probably been dead for three weeks before her body was found.
“The flat was a revelation,” says Raymond Tiney, the coroner’s officer who investigated the case. “It was a museum piece of a typical working-class London flat of the 1920s. If a museum wanted to get their facts right, it was perfect.”
Mr. Tiney said nothing had been moved or dusted in years. Gas lamps provided the only light, an old-style stove the only means of cooking or heat.
Old newspapers littered the rooms. A 1926 edition headlined Britain’s general strike, another described Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. All the furniture, crockery and clothing dated from the 1920s.
A letter of reference postmarked 1923 showed that she had worked as a dressmaker. Neighbors confirmed that she left the flat every day for several hours but no one knew where she went or how she passed her time.…
“She didn’t invite any contacts and was dismissive and abusive (to anyone who approached her),” Mr. Tiney says. “Something happened that stopped her from wanting to take part in normal life.”
As far as anyone can tell, Ms. Slan’s last close relationship ended when her father died 30 years ago. They had lived together in the antiquated flat since 1914.
Dr. [Lorna] Wing [of the social psychiatric unit of London’s Institute of Psychiatry] says life in London probably contributed to Ms. Slan’s reclusiveness.
“Cities like London, Paris, or New York make it easier for something like this to happen,” she says. “It’s the very character of big-city life. People do keep themselves to themselves.”
Ms. Slan’s almost total solitude was also not unique, according to Dr. Wing’s experience. “It’s unusual in the sense that most people are social creatures and want to be in touch, but there are others who don’t.”…
Reports of people sheltering huge numbers of animals, living as recluses or predicting the end of the world are quite common. But Dr. Wing does admit that Ms. Slan’s particular version was exceptional.
“I doubt she was ill in any psychotic sense. If she could pay the rent, didn’t starve to death and lived to be 81, she couldn’t have been that batty,” she says.
But why Ms. Slan chose to live and die as she did remains a mystery. “It’s the one thing she will keep to the grave,” Dr. Wing says. [LA Times]
Fortunately the Grace Slans of the world are the exception rather than the standard. Because while “people do keep themselves to themselves,” that’s not the best that God intended for man. God’s design for man included relationships — relationship with Him and relationships with others. A quick check of Gen. 2:18 tells us that — “Then the Lord God said [after creating Adam], “It is not good for the man to be alone.…” It’s not good to be alone. We are created for relationship.
Relationship was at the center of God’s will for man in creation. Relationship is at the core of the nature of the church — the bride (the church) married to the Groom (Christ). That’s relationship. And relationship also is at the center of God’s will for man in the purpose and function of the church. As we mentioned last week, it is one reason He gave us spiritual gifts — not so that we edify ourselves, but so that we build up others. That’s relationship.
This issue of relationships in the church was important to Paul. That’s why in his letter to the young pastor of a key church early in the history of Christianity, he wrote not only of the priority of teaching (1 Tim. 1) and the practice of worship (ch. 2) and the progression of leadership (ch. 3) and the process of godliness (ch. 4), but also the protection of relationships (ch. 5). For the church to be effective, Paul told Timothy, those relationships must be protected. So he gave some guidelines of how to protect the relationships in the body of Christ.
At the heart of a church’s effectiveness lie relationships. But not any kind of relationships. These relationships are to be conducted as family relationships. And just as when a family properly relating to one another will grow in love, so a church will grow in unity when it loves with a family kind of love.
So here, from 1 Timothy 5, are four principles to guide your relationships in the church body:
Give respect to fathers. Older men, like all people, still sin. How shall a young man approach a sinning older, mature man? With the respect that is due his father. He does not sharply rebuke an older man, but he treats him as a father. He is not afraid to expose the sin and encourage the restoration, but he does it with respect of his position and station in life (see Lev. 19:32; Prov. 10:1; 19:26; 20:20, 29; 30:11, 17).
Give honor to mother. In the same way that he appeals to older men as fathers, he also appeals to older women as mothers — with honor fitting of their stage and status in life. Parents are worthy of the honor and respect of their children throughout a child’s lifetime (cf. Eph. 6:2-3). And those who are mature in years deserve honor and respect from younger church members.
Be compassionate with brothers. With a man of similar age, the man is to appeal to him as a brother. Why? Because they are brothers. He appeals to him as an equal, because he is an equal. He doesn’t presuppose superiority or rank (even if he is older), but he appeals to him as a brother in Christ (cf. Gal. 3:28; 6:1).
Be pure with sisters. Just as a man appeals to men as brothers because that is the nature of their relationship, so he appeals to women as sisters, because they are siblings in Christ. And he does so with all purity — with integrity and innocence of heart, and with all propriety.
It’s all really quite simple, isn’t it? Treat those who are older as you would honor your own parents, and treat those who are of similar stage in life or younger, as siblings.