By Jonathan Ho
“Hitler was a good man, wasn’t he? I think he was a good man.”
These were some of the first words I heard from a young man I had just met.
Minutes later, he continued asking offensive questions, trying to get under my skin, asking questions such as whether Jews deserved concentration camps, whether my sister was a “hoe,” a whore.
My first response could have been to sternly tell him to shut up, to react strongly enough to stop him from ever thinking of saying these things again. However, God has been teaching me that people are often not as they present themselves. This doesn’t excuse their actions, but it teaches us to see beyond the surface. We often act based upon something deep within us. In the field of developmental disabilities, we’re taught to see behaviors through what is gained. What is this young man gaining by acting the way he is acting?
What do speaking positively of Hitler and insulting a cultural group or someone’s relative have in common?
The expectation of receiving indignant anger.
And what benefit is it to gain someone’s anger? Attention. Acknowledgement of existence.
Apathy can feel worse than hate. When someone hates you, you exist. When no one cares about you, it can feel as if you might as well not exist.
Have you ever felt alone? You’re forgotten on trips, ignored by the leaders, and feel as if invitations are only made out of pity. Sometimes it feels better to say something offensive or loud enough to be seen.
You and I might not talk about Hitler or make fun of someone’s relatives, but don’t we all desire to be known and acknowledged?
Sometimes it feels better to have someone yell or laugh at you because the alternative is being alone. And it’s not good being alone. God himself said it was not good for man to be alone.1
This issue is about longing for belonging. The articles here by Julia, Brandon, Matt, and Andy all speak to feeling alone and on the outside.
This issue is meant for the lonely, the different, for those who feel like they’ve always been sitting on the outside looking in. My hope is that you would know you are not alone in feeling alone, that many share your longing to belong. My prayer however, is not that you would feel at home on earth, but that God would show you that he loves you and that in following Jesus, we too are called to walk in his way, that the world might experience and come to know our God. We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who came to us, one who has felt what we feel.2 He did not come as a conquering king but as a suffering servant, one whose call included being denied and abandoned by his closest friends. A call which included the deepest feeling of forsakenness one can ever experience.
Jesus had nowhere to lay his head3, and if we choose to follow him we too will not have a place to lay our head on this side of the story.
However, we can take heart in that we are not alone, that we will reap if we do not grow weary. The call of Jesus is a call to lay down our lives to love another and serve in the grace given us through Jesus; it is not easy, but it is worth it. So, for those of you who feel alone, may God show you that you are not alone in this journey, and that together, as the ekklesia of God, we are called to pursue those who are alone. God is the Great Pursuer, the one who will leave the ninety-nine to find the one, and while we might not find an earthly home, we will find companionship and our true home as we join Jesus in his work.
P.S. As always, we’d love to hear from you. Have you felt alone or isolated? Do you long to belong? We’d love to hear your story. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any stories, feedback, thoughts, and questions you might have.
1 See Genesis 2:18
2 See Hebrews 4:15
3 Matthew 8:20