We Need Each Other
By Ruan Spies
One of the biggest concerns I had when coming to university had little to do with academics. It had more to do with the people that were all around me. I had a strong desire to relate to those in my residence and lectures, wanting them to accept me for who I am. I cringed at the idea of being lonely.
Despite being surrounded by large numbers of people at university, the reality is that many students still feel lonely and long to be part of a community.
Fear of rejection
Very few people have not been hurt by someone that they trusted. By nature, we fear the possibility of feeling hurt or rejected. Avoiding rejection can so often dictate the way in which we relate to people.
Western culture is largely built on the ideology of individualism, where it has become all about me and serving my needs without any sacrifice in return. Don’t give too much of your time and resources to other people, because how will that benefit you in your pursuits and interests which is the only thing that matters? Worse than actually falling prey to this way of thinking, by closing yourself off from other people you will inevitably become lonely.
A different model
If you think of any movement that happened in history, it always stems from people with a collective desire to be part of a community – to feel like they belong and are accepted for who they are. It is a place where differences are not merely tolerated, but celebrated and learnt from. This sort of community is possible and it has been in operation for almost 2000 years.
In Luke’s record of the early church[i] there is a description of a diverse community of people who shared their lives with each other. They ate meals together, had everything in common and even sold their own possessions to take care of those in need. It is not only a model for how Christians are to love one another today, but should be what attracts the world to Christ.
Paul reiterates this way of living in his letter to the church in Philippi[ii]. He speaks of how each person should regard others as more significant than themselves and look not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others. He is trying to drive home how Jesus humbly gave up His life to the point of death so that those who enter into relationship with God can love like He does. Without knowing and experiencing the love of Christ there will always be a void of loneliness that no other relationship can fill. Only God can fully satisfy the desire for real community with relationships marked by true self-sacrificial love.
Look for opportunities to give and serve other people with even the little that you have.
Counting the cost
As you make this decision to follow Jesus and seek to be a blessing to others, it will require breaking old selfish habits. It may mean offering up time for other people and making others part of your daily life even in busy times. Sometimes inviting somebody else into your seemingly trivial day to day activities is more significant than what you realise.
Be intentional about sharing what you have. Even though most students don’t think they have all that much to give, everyone has the capacity to share – whether it is coffee and biscuits, or a homemade meal. Look for opportunities to give and serve other people with even the little that you have.
The only way true, meaningful relationships will ever come about is when we are prepared to be vulnerable with one another. C.S. Lewis put it well:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”[iii]
It starts now
As students, it is easy to think that this is something that we will start doing only once we finish university. But as we begin to form habits of hospitality now, our capacity to give will grow later in life. Are you prepared to be vulnerable and perhaps, with God’s help, conquer some deeper fears of rejection? Take your eyes of yourself and fix them on Jesus. You need Him. And we need each other.
[i] Acts 2:42-47
[ii] Philippians 2:3-7
[iii] The Four Loves – C.S. Lewis