Dietrich Boenhoeffer wrote, “Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone.” Some people fear being hurt or losing their freedom if they get too close to others, so they withdraw into work or hobbies or watching TV. But isolation does not work either. I didn’t get here on my own, and my identity and purpose are tied inextricably to relationships: I am the son of John Sr. and Kathy, the brother of Barbie and Bart, the husband of Nancy, the father of Laura, Mallory, and Johnny. I am a pastor, friend, neighbor. I was not put on this earth merely to please or amuse myself. And people who seek to live for themselves alone, says Bonhoeffer, “plunge into the bottomless pit of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.” We are all part of the grits. And, honey, we don’t come by ourselves.
This connectedness has also been called “reciprocal rootedness.” We were created to draw life and nourishment from one another the way the roots of an oak tree draw life from the soil. Community—living in vital connectedness with others—is essential to human life. Researcher Rene Spitz showed that infants who are not held and hugged and touched, even if they have parents who give them food and clothes, suffer from retarded neurological development. Also, the earliest studies of suicide showed the major risk factor to be social isolation.
But the most important reason to pursue deep community is not for the physical or emotional benefits it brings, great as those may be. Community is the place God made us for. Community is the place where God meets us.
Ortberg, J. (2009). Everybody’s normal till you get to know them. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.