We are a nation that values independence. After all, our nation’s founding rested on a desire for it. We were a people under unjust rule by England and wanted to be free to govern ourselves. We wanted independence. So, when many of us today hear the word independence, we think of the American flag, the pledge of Allegiance, July 4 parades and barbecues, and a general pride in being an independent nation.
I have been thinking the last few days about how that emphasis on independence has impacted us as a people, even as individuals within this nation. We see a focus on self and self’s desires above all. The slogans of today are You be you! Do what makes you happy! Create your own destiny! Be yourself! In other words, don’t let anyone else tell you what to do or how to live. We don’t just want independence as a nation or independence from unjust rulers, we want independence from everyone. Listen to these words from the iconic song from the Disney hit Frozen, “It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through. No right. No wrong. No rules for me. I’m free.” Isn’t that the cry of the people today as we move away from any sense of abstract truth, the truth outside of ourselves that doesn’t change based on our desires to live as we please? Everything in our culture is being redefined as man seeks to not be bound to any law that goes against his desires. Perhaps in America we value our own autonomy more than in other cultures.
Yet surely we Christians know better, right? We understand that we are to follow God and that His truths are unchanging. Oh, but isn’t there still a bit of a rebel in each of us, a desire for no one to tell us what to do? We don’t want others to point out the sins they see in us that we may be blind to. We chafe against following government rule when it doesn’t make sense to us or when we fear it is taking away our ‘freedoms.’ We don’t want to serve when it’s inconvenient on our time and resources. We understand that we must watch our mouths, but on social media, we feel we can type or forward the most vitriolic comments – after all, aren’t we a nation of free speech? In our desire for independence, we strive to control our own lives, to make them turn out the way we want them to, and we can even grow angry when things don’t go our way. For independence doesn’t work; following our desires and doing things our way will not keep us happy, successful, and healthy. It does not bring life.
Sisters in Christ, there is a better way. It is the road of Dependence. Yoking myself to the One who is my Master, not an unjust taskmaster, but a Master nonetheless who demands my very life (Matt. 10:39). Who takes away my perceived independence and binds me to Himself as His servant. And this yoke, He promises, is lighter than the yoke of the life that fights for her independence (Matt. 11:27-28). This is a yoke, a dependence, that leads to true life. However, it requires the greatest cost: sacrificing our own desires so we may live a holy and acceptable life to God, allowing Him to transform every aspect of our lives, from laying down the rights we feel we deserve to not using our freedom of speech in this country to slander those we don’t agree with (Rom. 12:1-2). It includes thinking of what is best for others before ourselves (Phil. 2:3-7), and in all things obeying Him over our desires (I Peter 1:13-16).
Interestingly enough, God would not have us be dependent only on Him, though He is obviously our greatest source of dependence. He also created us to need one another in the body of Christ. As a matter of fact, the body functions rightly only when everyone does his or her part (I Cor. 12:12-27). I need you, my family in Christ, to encourage me in the faith, pray for me, and confront me if you see sin I’m not dealing with. I, in turn, need to serve you as well with the time and resources God gives me. We in the church are dependent on one another and cannot choose to live selfishly.
This life is not about me and my rights. And on this Fourth of July, our nation’s Day of Independence (for this is when I am typing this), I will boldly declare that I am not independent and will fight against the desire to be so. Today, I declare my Dependence.