solitude and community

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a 20th century theologian and Christian writer, was a huge fan of community. He wrote a book about it called Life Together in which he exposes its challenges and rewards. Bonhoeffer would be the first to insist that consistent interaction with others is essential to the life of the believer, yet he writes:

Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community. Such people will only do harm to themselves and to the community. Alone you stood before God when God called you. Alone you had to obey God’s voice. Alone you had to take up your cross, struggle, and pray, and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot avoid yourself, for it is precisely God who has singled you out. If you do not want to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.

Community and solitude, according to Bonhoeffer, should be held in a balance. If I’m afraid to be alone, I have a problem. If I’m afraid to be with people, I have a problem. It seems that there is an order, though. Before I can live successfully in community, I need to sit alone in God’s presence. I need to soak up wisdom from Him so I can deal with others, and I need to receive the assurance of my validity from Him so that I won’t try to find it in the affirmation of other people.

These are simple ideas. I need to be alone, and I need to be with people. I am so grateful for the community of friendships I have in my life, and today, I am grateful for the time I could spend alone in God’s presence. I need both pieces for the puzzle to be complete.

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One Response

  1. I like this idea of balance.

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