Humanness is incompatible with self-sufficiency. This is not something I like to think about—in fact, I would prefer to fight the idea tooth and nail to the bitter end. However, in my own mind and also to you, I am bound to intellectual honesty.
Our inability as people to secure and retain independence is inarguably self-evident.
Nature itself is testimony enough; infants, the elderly, and the sick or wounded have no capability of ensuring their own survival. In addition, phenomena such as the widespread influence of peer pressure, a generally systemic desire for love and belonging, and the tendency of humans to form groups and bonds all throughout life, etc. confirm again and again that the homo sapiens is a socially oriented species. Some would credit this to mere evolutionary biology but that would be an intellectual farce. Love isn’t necessary for continuation of the species. Nothing is necessary for effective procreation beyond the mere mechanics of intercourse, and the same sort of relatively pacifistic instinct shared by animals of the same species, which ensures they won’t eradicate themselves. Why do humans need more? Other human relationships (besides those of a romantic nature) are equally useless from an evolutionary perspective.
"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival." –C.S. Lewis (“The Four Loves”)
The only explanation for the human drive toward relationship is that mankind was created by God to require and enjoy community.
Believe me when I say that I take absolutely no pleasure in spelling out exactly what this means. For me it is the epitome of inconvenient truth. It is, to my mind, revoltingly inconvenient that we cannot simply continue to live our lives in an either defiant or indifferent blindness to this reality—but the reason we cannot (in case anyone missed my emphasis) is because the idea that humans need each other is inconveniently true. Truth by its own nature is indispensable. Stubbornly permanent. Incontrovertible. Therefore, we either accept and accommodate it—or we knowingly die to our own integrity.
So what exactly it means when I say, “Humanness is incompatible with self-sufficiency” is this: There are some things we need that we are unable to give ourselves. In order to obtain them, we must look to others.
Physically the case is again self-evident; all of us are factually aware that when we were newborns we were incapable of self-nourishment. None of us would have survived if someone else hadn’t intervened on our behalf and taken care of us when we were unable to care for ourselves. Spiritual self-inadequacy functions in somewhat the same way, except that it’s not limited to spiritual ‘infants.’ Our state of spiritual dependence on others can’t be expressed merely in terms of metaphorical age but rather in terms of our participation in the human condition (which is, of course, constant) or in terms of our acceptance of God’s ordering of life. Put another way, one may say our interdependence is our compliance with His definition of humanness, and this submission is an expression of our worship.
Now, when I speak of spiritual self-inadequacy, there are two “levels” I would like to distinguish between and the first is self- inadequacy for spiritual health. The idea is that while three rice bowls a week (for example) may technically be enough energy to sustain the basic vital needs of a human being, it is not enough to ensure the health of that person; he or she will not be functioning well at all—in fact, he or she will probably be ill. Spiritually, the parallel is that we won’t function well without certain prescriptions of love and truth that are applied in somewhat specific ways, taking the form of perhaps encouragement, accountability, constructive criticism, discipline, etc. And these must be received directly from the “hands” of others; we are unable to prescribe them to ourselves.
The second more basic level is spiritual self-inadequacy for survival. This is the scenario in which a human who consumes no rice at all will not continue to exist. Love and truth compose the spiritual food; love and truth are found always, only in and through Christ. Salvation is truth and love; it is the spiritual food necessary for survival. ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Romans 10:13) In this case as well, many times the “food” must be received from others. Let there be no mistake—God is absolutely sovereign. His power alone saves. Life is in the food and hands are the mere distributors.
And now we have come to the crux of everything! Why have I bothered to ramble on about this? For one reason and one reason only, my friend:
Because I see that you are starving. Your wasted soul is sharply visible in front of my face. I see that you won’t feed yourself; you don’t feel hungry, I know. The situation doesn’t seem urgent. You don’t recognize any cause for concern.
“Loneliness is like starvation: you don’t realize how hungry you are until you begin to eat.” –Joyce Carole Oates
Whether inconvenient for you or for me, the truth in this situation is this: If you don’t eat, you will die. If you do… life is in the food. It’s very simple.
I wrote this note as a response to a somewhat vague burden. I am praying over who reads it and would truly love the opportunity to talk to anyone. For those who may be interested in more scriptural references on the necessity of community, I’ve included a few of many.
Ephesians 4:16, Genesis 2:18, 1 Corinthians 12:12-25, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, 1 Corinthians 10:24, Matthew 18:15, 1 Peter 4:9, Galatians 6:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, Acts 2:42, 2:45-46, Matthew 22:39, Matthew 5:13-16, Hebrews 10:24-25, Romans 12, (in its entirety but particularly verse 5) Mark 1:17