This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.
Several years back I led an overseas mission trip on behalf of a large church based in the Midwest. All, but one, of the team were members of our home congregation. This single man, we’ll call him Ed, aged sixtyish, was from a nearby church who had heard through the grapevine we were planning the summer expedition into the mountains of a country far away. Ed convinced me to accept his application because he wanted to come along and “serve.” We found out after it was too late that he wanted to serve himself.
Ed was a needy guy. His genius was that he could turn almost any situation into a story about his problems or how he was overly oppressed by everyone around him. He believed the world had unfairly dealt him a crooked hand. Life was at all times unfair to him. He could not understand why others were happy and he was not. Generally we ignored him and went about our work; for we quickly learned that the more we felt sorry for him, the more attention he required.
Ed’s self-pity grew each day, and when he did not receive the recognition he believed he ought to have he became confrontational. His habitual complaining and interruptions finally reached a boiling point. I was asked by the others to speak to him privately.
As we walked along the road that evening I asked Ed if he was aware that the rest of the team was avoiding him. He acknowledged the relationship breakdown and proceeded to criticize each one (by name) for not respecting his opinions. Ed went so far as to say that the entire group hated him because of his political beliefs. His views were not respected, he sweared, because he was a socialist.
When we reached a cool-down period I asked him why he craved attention. He admitted he was a rejected man who could never find a wife or friend of any sort. I suggested that finding a friend was quite easy. All one had to do was stumble upon another lonely person. That won’t be hard, I said, for there are millions in this world.
Ed did not like this advice: “I do not want to be around other lonely people,” muttering, “They are too much like me.”
Lonely people are not fond of other lonely people. One would think they would be a match made in heaven: Lonely Man A meets Lonely Man B and they become friends. But life does not work this way, with the exception that there does exist a perverted kind of camaraderie among thieves.
Perhaps this inescapable lonesomeness is given so it would be easier to give companionship to others. But, no, that is not what friendless people want. Essentially what the companionless desire is for the world to have an understanding of their alienated condition. They want to hold others accountable for their gloomy state. Instead of serving, they want to be served; for there is none more lonely than the man who loves only himself.
The Apostle Paul gave us the cure for this sort of loneliness: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”