No Greater Communion
by Jill Carattini
There are some communities that tragically seem to miss something vital in their communing. A support group can be a place where a person can delve deeper into the behavior that isolates them; websites are reportedly linking strangers together who are, in turn, simultaneously committing suicide. Moreover, the sheer number of online confessionals reveals the need for a community where one can be real about plaguing guilt, failures, and offenses. Members clearly express a need for the fellow humanness of a flawed community, and at the same time a need to remain, in some ways, inhuman–unknown, nameless, faceless.
Brandon’s is a name and a story over which to pause. The 21-year-old died in the privacy of a chat room full of people who watched by web-cam as he killed himself with drugs and alcohol. Their conversation was disquieting, left behind in a hauntingly silent script. Voices cheered him to pass out on screen. Brandon responded with his phone number. “Call if I look dead,” he said. But even after he passed out, they spoke as if he was something less than real. “He’s dead,” said someone. “Happy trails,” said another. “Should I call 911?” “No!” they agreed in unison.
After this tragedy, columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. wrote in shock of Brandon’s story and what seemed to be the telltale signs of yet another failed community: the virtual community. The very community, he reminded, that we were promised at “the dawn of the Internet Age, the one that would link all humankind in brotherhood, sisterhood, enlightenment.”(1) Such connectedness clearly failed Brandon. Even if his friends would have stopped to call for help, they didn’t know his real name.
Beneath the promises of our successfully linked world, a poignant undertow of despair is noticeably emerging. We are living in a lonely world, in a very needy world, and the need for true community and meaningful connectedness has never been more piercingly heard and severely felt. When the diaries of the famed atheist, Madeline Murray O’Hare were auctioned off several years ago, they found three times punctuated in her journals the words: “Will somebody somewhere please love me? Will somebody somewhere please love me?”
What heart is not stirred at those words? Our longing for meaningful connections is real, and it is a longing that runs deeper than any one area of our lives. We are looking for connections of the heart, soul, and mind.
The same teacher who said the greatest commandment on earth is to love God with all of our strength and our being, once held a child in front of him and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:2-5).
Showing us a child as a sign of the community of God’s kingdom, Jesus is saying something deliberate about the kind of community he is drawing together. Little children love readily with all of themselves. Their connections and unity are genuine, perhaps because the mind has not yet been deterred by suspicion, disappointment, or pride. As such, their hearts grasp something about communing we often do not. G.K. Chesterton, who said he learned more by watching children than any philosophy book, once observed that children have in their ownership the obscure idea of loyalty even to a thing. The child who has gone to bed without his toy does not only feel that he is sad without it. He also feels in some transcendental way that the toy is sad without him.
I believe Jesus urges us to see that those who will be like children, like men and women aware that the love we seek also seeks us, will find the kingdom of God. The very community we long for is governed by one who longs for us to be in it. If God is like the shepherd willing to leave the flock to go out searching for the one who has strayed, there is nowhere we can flee from his presence; there is never a time we won’t belong. Indeed, there is no greater love, no greater connection, no greater communing.
Jill Carattini is senior associate writer at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
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