Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus never said you had to have anything in common with your neighbor. He didn’t say you had to be good friends. He didn’t say you had to agree on everything, nor even the majority of things. But, love we must. For out of mutual love comes trust. Out of trust comes security. Out of security comes peace of mind, survival and time to worship God, who we are commanded to love with everything at our disposal. To fail at this calling is to our own detriment…not God’s. God is immortal. God survives. We, on the other hand, are extremely vulnerable…even at our best.
Every combat soldier knows this. No matter how brave they are or how advanced their skills and equipment, they are limited by the biological fact that no one has eyes in the back of their head. When a soldier says, “I have your six,” he means he has your back…while you’re looking in one direction, he’ll be looking in the other for threats you can’t see coming. Even if his fighting skills are deficient, he can warn you of incoming trouble and improve your chances of maintaining a defense. You don’t have to like one another. You don’t need to have anything in common, other than the mutual goal to survive the carnage about you.
We can’t do it alone. As a police supervisor, I found the most efficient squads were those who embraced teamwork and cohesively worked well together. They didn’t need to be the brightest individuals. In fact, some of the most intelligent people in the world are so ingenious they leave everyone else behind and are socially inept. There is truth that some gifted people are better off leaving it wrapped up. Teams of officers don’t need to particularly like each other or socialize off-duty to be highly productive. They do need to have a mutual concern for one another and share the same goal; to get the job done right and go home after their shift.
I know people who were naturally compassionate, warm and loving. But when things got rough, they closed down and tried to run it alone. They didn’t trust their co-workers or subordinates enough to delegate tasks and suffered professionally. They didn’t ask for help when their marriages were in trouble and destroyed their families. They didn’t seek out sage advise, expert assistance, or wise counsel and lost all that they held dear and worked so hard to attain…sacrificed so much for…and ended in misery. Mostly, it was because they felt responsible and couldn’t admit their shortcomings in time to avoid disaster. Sometimes it was pride…a lack of healthy, honest humility. But, more often, it was because of fear…fear of not living up to the perceived expectations of others or their own.
“No man is an island…” (John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, 1624)
So true. We can force ourselves to become hermits, even in a busy city. We can tighten down our social circles and strangle our reliance on others. We can curtail intimate associations, but all we’re doing is denying our true nature as social animals, which is ignoring reality…and reality always wins. The delusional shorten their longevity; in their professional as well as their personal lives. Primitive tribes that isolate themselves become incestuous, unstabl and even cannibalistic.
That isn’t to say there won’t be strife, even under the best of circumstances and strongest camaraderie. I recently read somewhere that if you place three devoted Christian disciples together in a locked room and ask them a simple question, you will get five different answers. Schisms have plagued Christendom since its inception and we have grieved the Holy Spirit by overthinking what should have been kept simple. The apostles had disputes on numerous occasions (Acts 15). Even Saints Peter and Paul didn’t always see eye to eye (Galatians 2). But they had love for one another as followers of Christ and were bound by a mutual desire to spread the Gospel. That was a tough sell in their day, but we have to admit their efforts were amazingly successful for a couple of Jews in an anti-Semitic world…despite their common martyrdom. The criteria for success is not always obvious and we are forever reminded that God’s ways are not our ways…
“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.” (Job 37:5)
To each, his own here. But, despite my commitment to independence, in the end I have found that there is a great deal of truth and comfort in the words of Christ compared to habitually going it alone, continually following my own lead, and living a complete “DIY” lifestyle:
“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)
There is no doubt that there is risk in trusting others. Betrayal is heartbreaking. So reliance has to be accompanied by discernment and prudence. But whether we’re rowing a boat in rough seas, maintaining a family in our modern age, or running an organization in a tumultuous world…we can’t do it alone.