An article in AARP Magazine has me thinking about loneliness in our lives and lonely people in the Bible’s stories.
Nobody can escape loneliness. It’s too near the heart of being human. Jesus was lonely. His closest friends didn’t understand him. In the end they abandoned him. On the cross Jesus didn’t cry from pain, but he did cry. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
That AARP article tells a lot about the science of loneliness, but something else struck me most. The author described how hard it can be sometimes to befriend a lonely person. Loneliness is insidious. The way the world perceives the lonely person and the way the lonely person perceives the world both work against the social connections that can turn our loneliness into joy.
A community for lonely people
The Gospel of John tells about someone who, I think, must have been the loneliest woman in the Bible. She’s the woman caught in the act of adultery. I wonder how her story ended. Jesus had made a social connection with her. After shaming the ones who were accusing her, Jesus told her to “go and from now on avoid this sin.” That couldn’t have been the end of the story. I think John put this woman into his Gospel because the people he wrote to knew about a happier ending.
I imagine a community of Jesus followers, probably John’s own community, welcoming this woman and helping her “avoid this sin.” They must have learned from Jesus to see good in other people. In this case they might have seen the courage of a woman who refused to give up hope after her husband died. That male-dominated society left her little means to survive and take care of her children except one—in a house of prostitution. The scribes and Pharisees, wanting to lay a trap for the merciful Jesus, knew just where to go to find the right “sinner.”
But Jesus turned the trap around on those self-righteous elders by silently writing on the ground. John doesn’t tell us what he wrote. I’ll bet it was about a quite virtuous woman and some men who just wouldn’t care what troubles their society made for people less fortunate than they.
Loneliness is a trouble we all carry to one degree or another. Thank God for Christian people who notice and share one another’s burdens.
Image credit: AARP