I read a statement in an article by Charles E. Moore this week that got my attention and provoked some thinking on my part. He suggested “we must realize that freedom is not the same as independence.” Yet our holiday of July 4 is called “Independence Day” and is the occasion we celebrate our freedom as a nation. In his article, however, Moore wasn’t referring to our national celebration this Tuesday.
As followers of Jesus we are certainly free, but not independent. As a matter of fact, our freedom is the result of our declaration of dependency on the Lord. That’s what we do when we come to faith in Christ and commit to following him. The freedom I have in mind is our freedom from guilt and deserved punishment for our sin—doing things God has instructed us not to do as well as leaving out of our lives things God has asked us to do. Generally speaking, most of us focus more on sins of commission and tend to ignore sins of omission. In Christ we are forgiven for both.
We are free in Christ, but as Moore points out, “we are not free to do whatever we want regardless of others.” As Christians we are members of the body of Christ and of one another. That means we are not independent, but interdependent. As fellow members of the body of Christ we need each other.
The New Testament stresses our interdependence with a variety of specific “one another” instructions regarding our mutual responsibilities. The foundation of our interdependence is Jesus’ command: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another” (John 13:35b). The other “one another” instructions give concrete examples of how we are to love one another. A sampling of those include “accept one another” (Romans 15:7), “serve one another” (Galatians 5:13), “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), “encourage one another and build each other up” (I Thessalonians 5:12), “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other” (James 5:16), and “offer hospitality to one another” (I Peter 4:9)
Admittedly, it is a challenge to live out our interdependence today. Many go to church, and are members of a church, but do not engage in the “one another” instructions. Its takes time and effort, and we have to be open and willing. It’s not the only way to do it, but many church members are able to practice interdependence through participation in a small group.
On Tuesday I will be celebrating our nation’s independence and our freedom. I am grateful to live in this country and enjoy the privileges we have. But I also realize I am dependent upon the Lord and interdependent with other believers. I celebrate that every week; and I am also thankful for both.
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photo credit: T.H. Images <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/106086788@N08/28520078935″>4th of July Fireworks</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>