Eugene Cho

loneliness is the greatest disease in our society


I agree with Mother Teresa:

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

And this is where I believe the Church can have some of the greatest impact: not just in Loving God but Loving People. And while it’s great to talk about loving the world and loving your city, even loving one another in our church fellowship & community is a great testament.  This builds integrity, credibility, and is truly counter-cultural…

But I do have some questions for you that I receive from many folks:

  • Why is it so hard to make friends?
  • Why is community so hard?
  • Why are people polite but so resistant to intimacy?

And yes, I wish I was a better practitioner of Community and not just merely a wanna be good Teacher. Last Sunday, I preached on the importance of Community. Amongst some important points:

  • Loneliness is different from being alone.
  • We are created for community, relationship, and intimacy.
  • A sense of “Loneliness” existed even before the Fall, right?
  • Things that hinder community: Sin, Judgment, Consumerism, Apathy, Empty Worship, Culture of Strangerisms

One way we can build community also happens to be one of the greatest ways we can change the world. Here’s my short explanation below. If you want to watch the entire sermon, you can do so here or check the podcast on the Quest website.

And here’s part II of the sermon on the topic of ’10 Things that Build Community.’ Here’s a short clip: ‘Water the Grass on This Side…”

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12 Responses

  1. elderj says:

    This is a great post Eugene and a critical problem. Why is loneliness such a problem in our society? I think a huge part of it is the rapid acceleration of a culture that highly values the pursuit of one’s individual fulfillment through career, delayed marriage, few children, church shopping, and even music personalization. People have been highly socialized against making the hard decision to commit to something for a long time and therefore relationships tend towards the utilitarian and ephemeral.

    Take marriage for instance. There was a time in our society when people married young and had children almost immediately. Thus they went from being part of one community of boundedness and commitment (family of origin) to another. People did not spend the large stretches of time that have become normative in our society going from family to college to another job in a distant city to perhaps yet another job and finally to some place where they “settle down” and maybe find someone and then date for several years and then maybe marry, or maybe not.

    The truth of the phrase “it is not good for man to be alone” is more and more apparent. We learn to love in the laboratory of bounded and committed relationships (like family) where of necessity we share space, give up some control, and subordinate some of our desires for the greater good. Everything almost in contemporary society works against that notion down to the fact that many children don’t share a room when growing up anymore.

  2. your friend says:

    One thing that really hits me hard again and again: We have become SPECTATORS rather than those who actively commit themselves in getting fully involved.

  3. […] loneliness is the greatest disease in our society « eugene cho – view page – cached “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair,… (Read more)“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” (Read less) — From the page […]

  4. Cruiser says:

    Thank you Eugene for posting the message. It’s prefectly applicable for my small group that I’m helping to lead. We’re blessed.

  5. Jake Johnson says:

    Thanks for your thoughts here, Eugene. I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic of loneliness since Mark Driscoll posted his series on leadership being lonely. I think it’s not healthy to view loneliness as a norm, and I’ve personally seen the damage loneliness can cause in a community.

    I put some of these thoughts down on my post, “Should Leadership be Lonely?” If you have time or interest, I’d love to hear your thoughts:


  6. nlee says:

    “the greatest gift of all is to love….and be loved in return…”

    when you mention “strangerism” this reminds me of a phrase that a friend used to describe the “cold-shoulder-ness” of seattle-ites: “seattle freeze.” the question we must ask ourselves is whether we (the church community) participates in perpetuating this so-called “seattle freeze.”

  7. DanW says:

    Stanley Hauerwas speaking to the same thing:

  8. RV says:

    Thanks for sharing this post.

    It’s difficult to strike a healthy balance between isolating oneself and being in one another’s face without boundaries. I think one reason why people don’t always delve deeper into a relationship is that some people will take advantage of you. For example, I had one person, who came to my place of business after closing hours. She kept me there an hour extra just talking and wanting advice regarding her kids…it was already 8PM, and I wanted to go home and be with my family. She didn’t give me a choice to do that until she was finished. Even after that she asked if I’d meet with her again to talk, for only one hour. In my mind, I was thinking you already took one hour without my consent. I had been kind to her in the past, but it soon became clear that the relationship was very uneven. In many ways, I felt she had no regard for me at all. I think this is one reason why it is somewhat healthy to assess a person/relationship before really diving in.

    A good friend is someone who’s willing to bless others. Still, unless you’re a complete saint or doormat, it’s difficult to let it be completely one way, where you feel disrespected. It’s about setting boundaries. Perhaps, we’ve gone too far in one direction, but I don’t think it means we just jump into relationships without thought–not that any of you are saying that.

  9. […] Loneliness seems to be a theme in the blogosphere lately. Eugene Cho pitches in with some great words here. […]

  10. gregory says:

    rv- as followers of Christ we are called to pour ourselves out like a drink offering. To love the unlovable without assessment. I thank God he did not assess me!

    elderj- i have quietly enjoyed your wisdom. you nailed a few points the entire church needs to hear. the entire culture shifted dramatically while the church slept through it, or worse yet, assimilated into it rather than inform and guide.

  11. Ajushi says:

    Religious people and other pharisees throughout the modern organized “churches” are the greatest culprits of all in the crisis of deprivation for love (that is, the cause of most loneliness) in the world today.

    The true church is the Body of Christ – the Sons of God who live by the Spirit of Almighty God – not the building where a lot of people show up on Sunday, or the people in it.

    It is best to stay away from the organized church for all of the afflicted and suffering people who are in need of love (that is, the cure to loneliness), because the pagans love one another far better than the deceived religious people, and one may find the nourishment and healing needed among the true church and among pagans MUCH more easily than in the organized “church”. The real church is not the one Cho refers to in his blogs, now propped up on page one of Google searches thanks to Google analytics and all manner of self-promotion.

    This organized “church”, (that is, “Quest”) and its leadership has already been rebuked, corrected, and trained extensively on these matters and others, (though the inner knowing, which they ignore, should be enough without rebuke) but has continued on the same old pathways of vanity, avarice, and other aspects of pharisee-ism and religion anyway. This is standard in these times, though. As the Lord said, Matthew 24:12, and Matthew 7: 21-23. We see this happening today on ever greater levels.

    But the Lord can reach anyone he chooses at any time and pull them out of religion (just like he pulled Paul out), and put them to use, and this goes for Cho and any other religious person.

    If this post helps one person to be set aside, then the Lord has worked his miracles once again.

  12. Seriously Speaking says:

    Loneliness is certainly a very bad disease, especially for many of us good men and women that have so much trouble connecting with each other.

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Old Jerusalem. So many stories. So much history. The synagogue in Capernaum (Galilee) where Jesus began his public ministry. He taught with authority... Pray for your pastors and teachers...that they may teach with courage, conviction, humility, and ultimately, directing people to Christ - the Word made flesh.

Speaking of, so excited to be teaching at @Quest Church tomorrow. If you're in the Seattle area, join us. A glimpse of Jordan River where John baptized Jesus. "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." What amazes me most about this event is about...timing and patience. For Christ, it wasn't about "if" but about "when." In a world of supersonic pace,  impatience, quick results, hurry and now and NOW...Jesus waited for the Father's timing. He was patient and faithful. I need to learn that waiting on the Lord in itself isn't apathy but rather an act of faith. The town of Bethlehem and at the site of the cave (aka manger) of the birth of Christ.

One of the highlights was a class of Palestinian Muslims and Christian kids in a local public school singing a Christmas carol for us in Bethlehem...just across the Shepherd's Field. Galilee. Surreal to be at the mountainside where Jesus delivered "The Sermon on the Mount" ... aka The Beatitudes. Walking around praying for Paris, Beirut, Istanbul, Nigeria, Mali, Palestine/Israel... This verse is so particularly important in light of all the violence in the world. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." - Matthew 5:9 I've been in the Holy Land this entire week and now headed back home. For security reasons, I couldn't share my travel plans. In addition to soaking in some of the stories of the Bible and literally walking in the steps of Jesus, I've been meeting, hearing, and learning from local Jews, Christians, and Muslims - particularly around the topic of peacemaking. Frankly, it's been one of the most intense and challenging experiences. My heart both aches and hopes. Just processing the recent events of Paris and Beirut with locals have been fascinating. I don't think I'll ever read the Bible or view the Middle East and Muslims the same way.

Continuing to pray for peace here and everywhere.

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