Independent or Interdependent?

Today is a national holiday. We have been celebrating the 4th of July since our Founding Fathers declared our country independent of British rule on this date in 1776. While it did not become a Federal holiday until 1941, this declaring of independence has been important to our country and to us as individuals for a long time. Why is being independent such an important concept to us? So important, in fact, that we are willing to go to war and die, to actually maintain it. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

When we look at the definition of independent we see that it is multi-faceted:

1. Not dependent, as in controlled by or associated with a larger controlling unit.

2, Not requiring or relying on something else; not relying on another's opinions; not bound to a political party.

3. Not requiring or relying on others; free from the necessity of working for a living.

4. Showing a desire for freedom.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Nobody wants to be controlled by someone else. Having the freedom to come and go as we please, speak as we please, and believe what we want, is primarily important to us. This freedom has been important since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, enslaving people and trying to control them, has also been an opposite ramification of the thirst for freedom. We might think that we are exempt from the mentality that enslaves, so important is the concept of independence to us; however, the drive to be independent can also be the force behind that which enslaves. 

Pixabay - slavery

Wasn't it Hitler that wanted to be independent from the blight of the Jewish people? Weren't the good people of the southern states desirous of independence from hard labor and the harshness of plantation life, which they obtained by enslaving others thought to be less than human? Aren't the men and women who engage in human trafficking looking for independence and release from the pressures of a hurried and stress filled life? When we demand to be right and to have rights, aren't we walking down a path that could lead to the fettering of others' freedoms and rights?

Often, when there are more questions than answers, I turn to the scriptures to get God's perspective on a matter. What does His word say about independence? First, let's take a look at a few of Jesus' thoughts.

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
— John 10:11 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Jesus knew who He was and that He was not independent of His people. His greatest desire was and is the care of His sheep. He doesn't say, "I am a shepherd. I take care of sheep." He says, He is the good shepherd and in being good, He is willing to die for the sheep. This is not a relationship of independence, but of complete dependence. We are completely dependent on the good shepherd and as the good shepherd He is well aware that He is bound to His sheep; to watch over them, care for them, look for them when they are wandering and die for them if need be. 

I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
— John 10:14 (NASB)

Once again, Jesus established the dependent relationship. He knows us, those who are His own, and His own know Him. 

I am not saying that Jesus is dependent on us. He is God and has no need of dependence on another being, but He has chosen to be in a relationship with us and relationships require a certain amount of dependence. To much independence in a relationship can cause problems resulting from the struggle to be "my own person," rather than working together to be a better couple, family, community, city or nation.

17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.
18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
— John 10:17-18 (NASB)

Once again, we see Jesus taking the stance of interdependence, not independence. Even in the God-head there is a hierarchy. Jesus submits Himself to God the Father and the Spirit to Jesus Christ. Three almighty beings, completely independent, but completely interdependent. 

11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.
12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.
— I Corinthians 11:11-12 (NASB)

This passage is found in the context of head coverings and I am not about to muddy the waters in that regard, but the point is we are all dependent on each other. As a Christ follower, I believe in Creation and that, in turn, means I believe that verse 12 is the synopsis of our interdependence. Woman was created from Adam's rib, women birth men, but we all originated from God. 

What, then, does all of this mean when it comes to our freedoms and our desire for independence. As with anything, balance. God intended that we have independent personalities, likes and dislikes, abilities and talents. He did not intend to create a world of identical clones. He also created man with a desire to not see other's suffer at the hands of those who are tyrannical, power driven or only seeking financial gain. We were all created equal, as Abraham Lincoln penned and it is this equality and the ability to live a life with equal opportunities and resources that we are striving for. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Today, I am thankful. Thankful that our Founding Fathers, who were not perfect, envisioned a world that could be equal for all. I am also thankful for all the men and women who have served and continue to serve to expand and preserve the freedoms we have. I am also thankful that we are dependent on each other. To be truly independent is to walk a long road very much alone. 

Have a wonderful 4th everyone!

 

Thinking Ahead to Easter

I have always loved Christmas and Easter. When I came to Jesus the idea of a mighty, all powerful God willing to be born and die, for our sakes, was and still is, remarkable. What would possess such a powerful being to cram His holiness into human form? What great motivation moved that same being to go to a cross? Many say that it was His love for us. 

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

Obviously, scripture concurs with the idea that God loves us. He loved us so much that He was willing to send His son to die for us, and not just die, but actually become human. That would be like me becoming an ant, so that I could save all the other ants from that shoe about to crush our hill. 

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
— John 15:13 (NASB)

What I find fascinating is that God didn't need to love us. I mean He could have gone on for another billion centuries, whatever that looks like in God time, and never created another living being. He was wholly perfect and, shall we say, content, in His God-head. He doesn't need us. He didn't create us because He was lonely and wanted someone to talk to. 

 Photo credit StockSnap -  Quino Al

Photo credit StockSnap - Quino Al

Could it be that God created us for something much more relatable than just a desire to make something out of nothing? Maybe God created simply because He could. Perhaps His artistic nature wanted to make something tangible and shall we say earthy. I'm not an artist. I can draw a little bit and took a ceramics class in high school, but that's where my ability ends. However, I can write. When I finish a piece and I  reread it and am moved to tears then I think, "Dang! Your good!" This isn't a matter of pride, it is a matter of being able to use that creative force that lies in all of us.

We are made in His image, so I must believe that God is especially creative. Just look at the fish, birds, bugs and animals. Look at the millions of people in the world, and we are all different! Amazing! If you gave me a yellow, blue and red crayon, I would only be able to come up with a certain number of color combinations, but God....well, He not only colors outside the lines, but outside the entire box! 

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

I can just see God as He began that creative work called life, with all of it's complex DNA combinations and miracles at a cellular level. He had to be thinking, "Dang! Your good!" Ha, ha. Whether it be the complexity of the human eye being able to see or the return of salmon to their spawning ground without a GPS, God moved with creativity when He brought this world about. 

 Photo credit StockSnap 

Photo credit StockSnap 

Now, try to imagine that the work of art you had just created wound up ruined. Would you have proceeded to pour your passion, your heart, your very essence into something you knew was going to get so messed up? God did! He knew that a serpent's whispered temptation and a human's lustful response would ruin all that He had spoken into existence. But with that knowledge He created a plan. A plan for our welfare. A plan for our salvation.

You see, just as we would do all in our power to preserve our creative efforts, or the creative efforts of others: think van Gogh, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, Mozart, Handel. Bach, Beethoven, and so many more, God wouldn't just throw it all in the trash. He made a way for His creation to be redeemed. That redemption comes through Jesus Christ. 

As we look forward to Easter in a few weeks I hope you will take some time to think about Jesus and who He is. He is waiting for you. He loves you. He wants a relationship with you. 

Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
— Romans 10:13 (NASB)

 

 

The Cherubim and the Flaming Sword

When I think of the word memorial my mind fills with images made of stone: buildings, statues, cement benches, large rocks and walls engraved with names and dates of people who are no longer with us. Memorials are built to help us remember. They are there to remind us of lives sacrificed for ideals or to bring to remembrance great men and women who changed our world for the better because of their ideals. Popular memorials include The Lincoln Memorial, the Marine Corps War Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A gravestone is a memorial and so are the vast faces of Mt. Rushmore. In the Bible memorials often took the form of altars that men such as Noah, Moses and Abraham set up to worship God.

Wikipedia defines the word memorial:

A memorial is an object which serves as a focus for memory of something, usually a person (who has died) or an event. Popular forms of memorials include landmark objects or art objects such as sculptures, statues or fountains, and even entire parks.
— Wikipedia.org

Over the next few weeks, I would like to look at some Biblical memorials. What I refer to as a memorial may be my own interpretation of the word. The point I want to try to make is a memorial should be a "thing" that makes us remember. Obviously, when you look at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, if you know your history, you remember what a great man and President he was and what he did to end slavery and bring unity to our Nation. The large carving in stone brings to remembrance the blood and sacrifice of thousands of men we do not know. Some were brothers by blood. Some were brothers by faith, but all of them believed they were fighting for a higher purpose. We should remember that.

In the third chapter of Genesis, we read about the fall of man (and woman) from God's grace and their subsequent expulsion from paradise. God had given them freedom to enjoy any of the delicacies in the garden, except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From that one tree they were instructed to not eat. If you read the story here, you see how crafty the serpent was. He was and is a master of manipulation. He came to the woman, possibly because she is relational. She had no qualms about talking with the serpent, who happened to be very beautiful. Adam, may have just hit it over the head with a shovel for skulking about the garden. But Eve, she spoke with the beautiful snake. What I am curious about here is why Eve misquoted what God had said. God had told them not to eat of the tree, but she goes on to tell the serpent God said, "You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die." I am not going to spend time in this post discussing how that came about, but what happens thereafter has affected us all. The serpent manipulated and the women ate, and the man ate. They disobeyed and they were driven from the garden.

Tree

We can sit here and think, why did they do such a stupid thing? It was paradise! Perfect weather, sunshine, blue skies, green grass, no mosquitoes....I am just believing that part. But we are all guilty of not being satisfied. We all struggle with pride, thinking, I got this! So where does the memorial fit into all of this? Read on:

So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
— Genesis 3:24 (NASB)
Fence

I think the cherubim and the flaming sword are a memorial of sorts. They were put there, according to the scriptures to guard the way to the Tree of Life. Life was no longer being offered, now only hardship, aging and death. Obviously, in our day and age the garden of Eden no longer exists. There is no cherubim with a flaming sword sitting outside some garden gate in the Middle East. But at that time I think the cherubim and the flaming sword were a sign; a memorial that this could not be undone. Sin had come into the world and no one was allowed to go back. The beauty and perfection of the garden had been given over for the selfishness and pride of the flesh. That angel and his flaming sword were a memorial set up so that all who passed by could see and remember. They could see that this was once the place where God walked with His man and His woman. They could know and remember that it was no longer possible, at least not for the common man, until the cross. 

Why is this important for us, as Christians to remember? Because this is where we came from. This is our heritage. Yes, you heard me. Sin is our heritage. 

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
— Romans 5:12 (NASB)

We really don't like to talk about sin. It make us uncomfortable. But so do memorials. Memorials remind us that someone gave their life so we might live. In the same way, Jesus gave His life so we might live. The cherubim and the flaming sword remind us why Jesus had to give His life for us. And praise His name, there is hope. 

For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
— Romans 5:19 (NASB)

No! We cannot go back to the garden. That way has been closed, but a new way has opened up. And there is no angel with a flaming sword standing in front of that way, but a Savior with open arms.