Being Alone, Being Together

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…

But the reverse is also true. Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone. You are called into the community of faith; the call was not meant for you alone. You carry your cross, you struggle, and you pray in the community of faith, the community of those who are called. You are not alone even when you die, and on the day of judgment you will be only one member of the great community of faith of Jesus Christ. If you neglect the community of other Christians, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your being alone can only become harmful for you...

We recognize, then, that only as we stand within the community can we be alone, and only those who are alone can live in the community. Both belong together...

Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community. Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone.

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Life Together (emphases are Bonhoeffer's)

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8 thoughts on “Being Alone, Being Together”

  1. Deep thoughts for an early hour. You certainly have an eye for these challenging truths. Particularly appropriate for the Feast of St Stephen. May your Chirstmastide be bright.

  2. What are the parameters for "being in community?"
    I work with students in a university setting amongst 40+ colleagues, amounting to 50+ hrs/wk. We share personal, but limited-in-depth, things with each other. Would that be considered "community?" I share deeper things online with 'like-minded' others, amounting to several hrs/wk. Is that "community? I also spend time with 'loved ones' that I grew up with - we exchange emails and phone calls and gather together for holidays, weddings, and (more recently) funerals ... is that "community?" Bonhoeffer here referring soley to the traditional notion of "going to church?"

  3. There are a couple of comments not coming through. My apologies. It's nothing I've done on my end, but one of those Disqus glitches. 

  4. I think I would perhaps like being in community, if I could figure out how to do it without existing in an inconvenient manner.  

    Perhaps I should seek the community of people who exist inconveniently...

  5. We are always already somewhere together. Humans are
    social creatures, dependent for better and worse on lives beyond our own: other
    people, other creatures, water, soil, and air. Rather than the individual,
    community is the basic social and ecological unit.

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