Sunday, January 19, 2014


Throughout history, there have been people who have decided that the best way to deal with the world is to escape it.  In the Christian tradition, this begins with Antony of Egypt, who would live in a cemetery and then later in the desert to escape the temptations of the world.  Of course, Antony then found temptations in the wilderness, and he bravely overcame them.  His solution to the temptations and struggles with other people was to get away from people, become a hermit, and to isolate himself as much as possible.

In later years, the hermit became one of the primary examples of a saint, of living as a holy man.  However, this is not the way of God.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself."

Jesus declares that to be right before God our primary way is to love.  We cannot obtain any kind of righteousness without loving.  And this means that we have to be with other people, not to isolate.  Running away from people isn’t living the life that God calls us all to.   To love is to deal with others’ pain and to weep with them.  To love is to face the temptations others give us and to overcome them.  To love is to be made angry by others and to do what is peaceful in return.  To love is to be rejected by others, but to respond in kindness. To love is to be available with others need you, with whatever you have.  God calls us to be with others, for without others we cannot achieve His will for our lives.

God has made us in such a way that we can only be happy if we are with others.  Mind you, people are often the cause of our unhappiness, as well.  People frustrate us and mock us and wound us and hate us and yell at us and irritate us.  So we often have temporary unhappiness by being with others.  But God has made us so that our long term happiness is by being with others.  If you want to be self-centered and depressed, spend most of your time alone.  Our soul is made to work better with other people, no matter how frustrating they are.

There is only one path of God.  It is the path of compassion, the path of gentleness, the path of mercy, the path of patience, the path of self control, the path of sacrifice.  We do not stay among others just to survive their presence, but to benefit them.  In that pattern of benefiting others, even in small ways, that is the way of life, eternal life. The only way God has presented is the path of love.

This doesn’t mean that occasional bouts of isolation aren’t good for us.  There are times we need to be alone to focus on God, to recharge our ability to act right toward others, to bask in the joy of God’s creation, apart from the tension that others bring.  Jesus took a break from people for forty days. But we, like Jesus, must not remain in isolation.  We must always, regularly return to be with others. 

Because without those irritating, frustrating, horrifying, idiotic people, we do not have God.  The way of God is found in others, as much as we might wish that were not so.

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