The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man.”

The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.… And they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (Gen 2:18, 22, 25; 3:7–8)

Today we say that human relationships that are not working are dysfunctional. When small groups get together, the relationships between people are impaired, incomplete, abnormal or broken. Every gathering of humanity comes together with the suspicion that our hopes will not be fully realized, and with the fear that something is deeply wrong with our human relationships. Kenwyn Smith and David Berg call this group paradox:

If we go directly to people’s experience and ask them what it is like to belong to a particular group, individuals do talk about the exhilaration of work in groups, but their comments are usually focused on the problematic experiences: “It’s very frustrating—I have so many things on my mind, but I never seem able to say them.” “Sometimes we work well together; at other times it is impossible, because there is so much tension.” “Everyone seems so ambivalent about everything—it’s overwhelming.” “It’s so paradoxical—we all like each other, but we never seem to connect.”1

All human communities exist in a state of brokenness and ambivalence, caught between the seventh day shalom (peace) of God and the temptation to withdraw into the “darkness” and “chaos” of the first day. The people of God throughout history have called this human state sin. Sin is the failure and destruction of human community. Sin is the disability of human beings to connect with each other. Sin is the inability of humanity to enter into community with the God of community. Sin is the poverty of relationship we experience when we try to become intimate with another person. Sin is the brokenness of community between God and humanity. Small groups are trapped in the “paradox” of hunger for intimacy (“it’s not good to be alone”) and fear of intimacy (“they sewed fig leaves to cover themselves”).

Gareth Weldon Icenogle, Biblical Foundations for Small Group Ministry: An Integrative Approach (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).