A Spirit of Independence
Pastor Larry Bond
I am beginning to write this article the morning of July 4th. Our thoughts are on such things as America's independence, the high price our founding fathers paid for that independence, the virtue our fathers had in seeking independence, and the Declaration of Independence, a providential document exceeding the wisdom of it's authors and signers. We admire these and the other courageous heroes as we should, and therefore, tend to glorify a spirit of independence. The fathers of our nation were not rebels but defenders of their families. They were not "independent spirits" but guardians of freedom. Their dependence upon God and one another was admirable and unmistakable.
At age 18 children need to get out on their own and learn independence. Right? They need to get a job at McDonalds, get their own apartment, buy a car, make a life for themselves, and establish themselves as an "individual". Parents are quite concerned these days about pushing the little birds out of the nest so that they learn to fly, and teens are equally as anxious to try their wings. Who is promoting this philosophy? Is this an accurate biblical perspective on the subject of independence? Here again as Christians we must turn to the Word of God for our approach to life's situations and decisions.
As we read through the Psalms, we see a very strong theme reiterated time and time again as the psalmist continually acknowledged his weakness and dependence upon God. "I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." (Ps 18:1-2). "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." (Ps 40:2). "From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings." (Ps 61:2-4). And so it goes throughout the Psalms! As children of God we must depend upon God. Not a hard principle for us to see, yet a "spirit of independence" can make it difficult to trust God, to lean on the everlasting arms. Back in the days before seat belt laws, a little boy was sitting behind the wheel helping his daddy drive. The boy said, "I want to do it all by myself". There was no traffic and just an open field with no ditch beside the road, so the father took his hands off the wheel and said, "its all yours son". After bumping through the field awhile the little guy cried out, "help me, daddy, help me!" We also think we can do it all by ourselves, but scripture warns us about over confidence in ourselves. "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." (Rom 12:3).
Standing alone, just you and God, may be occasionally necessary, but normally God's plan is for us to lean on one another. A study of the words "one another" in scripture really helps us see our need for each other. We are to comfort one another, admonish one another, edify one another, serve one another, love one another, exhort one another, and consider one another. We are to provoke one another to "love and good works". (Heb10:24). And to "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal 6:2). While barbecuing hamburgers today, I noticed that the lone briquettes around the edge cooled off and became ineffective in their purpose. The ones glowing hottest were dependent upon others touching them helping them to fulfill their design. Isn't it so true of us also, that we need to be dependent on others as they are on us in order that all of us might be able to burn brightly for God and fulfill His design for us?
We know how this is supposed to be within the church. Though we may not always apply it, we generally understand the importance of member interdependence in the body of Christ. Unprotected body parts exposed to the cold lose warmth quickly, but an ear and a hand or a foot and a hand together warms both parts. But, what about the family? Does dependency upon one another apply here also? With today's busy lifestyle, individualism seems to be paramount. He goes his way, she goes here way, and the children go their way. He has his agenda, she has hers, and the children have theirs. They really don't need one another very much! No wonder divorce is so rampant among Christians! After a few years of marriage, irritated spouses decide, "why stay married" when they don't need each other anyway. Christian families need to view themselves as one unit pulling together for the cause of Christ, instead of separate individual entities without mutual aspirations, common goals, and shared ministries. I do not view pastoring as "my ministry" but "our ministry". The family unit is the pastor! According to scripture, a pastor is not a pastor without a godly family. (I Tim 3:2-5; Titus 1:6). Ideally, family businesses and family ministries are great ways to promote "oneness" and interdependency. Many families are discovering the blessing of working together as a unit. Though financial circumstances may prohibit this presently, it would be an excellent goal worth making appropriate sacrifices. Maybe you don't need a new car - make it a family project to fix up the old one. Be different from the rest of society - practice good money management! Inappropriate sacrifices would be working more hours, or commuting further for a higher paying job, or anything else that would make you more of a stranger to your family.
One of the big problems we are seeing in marriages today is a lack of oneness ("…and they shall be one flesh"). Marriage partners are not seeing themselves as one unit, but individuals. Consequently, they have their own space, their own money, their own possessions, and their own time. It's no wonder, since from the time they were little, they were taught to be independent as if it were a long sought after virtue. At age 18 or younger they were sent off to college, or to do ministry, or to get a job, apartment, and a "life for themselves". If a young adult is still living in his father's house at age 25, people think there must be something wrong with him like maybe he is retarded or something. Parents seem to fear the shame of their older unmarried children not being out on their own. Is it parental pride??? Could it be that Christian parents need to reevaluate this traditional thinking? Here is a young man 27 years old. He has been married for 3 years - the honeymoon is over. From the time he was 18 until he was 24, he was out on his own - college, job, and his own apartment. For those 6 years he basically did what he wanted and when he wanted. His money was his to spend on himself if he wished. Other than job or class schedules, his time was his own. He had no responsibilities but to look after himself. No one was dependent on him, and he was dependent on no one. Now at 27 his wife wonders why he seems so selfish with his time and money. He doesn't act like he needs her very much, and she feels like they are strangers living in the same house. She is disillusioned about her marriage, but, oh well, she had a life of her own before they were married anyway, so she can just do her own thing, live here own life. This is the vestibule of divorce. Listen carefully to what God had in mind for marriage! "…For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matt 19:5-6). Notice that the statement of fact is made first, "they twain shall be one flesh", but then emphasizes that "they are NO MORE TWAIN, but one flesh". Is there any question here what the will of God is regarding marriage? Also, notice that there is no gap between being with parents and with a wife - "leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife". Marriage is certainly the normal course people take, and, I believe, should expect to take, and therefore prepare accordingly. Life-long singleness could, perhaps, be the exception. I know of a 60 year old, bachelor evangelist who would make a wife miserable with his self centered ways. But, I have also seen some really struggling in their marriages with selfishness, when they had been single, out on their own only a few years. Freedom and independence can develop rather quickly when you are just looking out for "you" and accountable to "you". But, if one is called to life-long celibacy and singleness as the Apostle Paul, even then he or she will need others who will be like family. Paul traveled with Barnabus, Luke, and Silas, and was at home with Aquila and Priscilla. Timothy and Titus were like sons to him. Jesus, while rejected by his own half brothers, found closeness and rest in the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and companionship amongst the twelve. Elijah stayed out the famine with the poor widow woman and her son, and Elisha enjoyed the rest peace of the Shunammite home. "And the LORD God said, It is NOT GOOD THAT THE MAN SHOULD BE ALONE; I will make him an help meet for him…and they shall be ONE flesh." (From Gen. 2). God designed us to need one another. Loneliness, self-focus, and not sharing are unhealthy for us, "not good". Neglected children left to themselves do not thrive. It's "not good" to leave teenagers alone too much. Young adults need SOMEONE - parents or a spouse. Are friends a substitute? Peers generally deteriorate ones virtue, and often lead down the road to destruction. The tale of Pinocchio demonstrates a valuable lesson. "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."(Prov. 13:20). King Rehoboam learned this hard lesson when he listened to the counsel of his peers instead of the wise older men. When God said this in Genesis 2:18, He specifically had in mind a wife for Adam, but until then he walked in the garden with his Father.
It is double trouble for a girl to be out on her own prior to marriage. In addition to the above principles, she finds herself without male authority. If that sounds chauvinistic, try this! A young lady who is not under the authority of a father or a husband or in special cases a brother is not only seriously unprotected, but also, she or/and her parents have caved in to the modern feminist culture! No man is going to tell her what to do; she is her own person; she has won her freedom; she is now completely independent! "We've come a long way, baby"! We prefer God's way, old fashioned though it may be. Of the 2 ways spoken of in scripture, one way leads to destruction! Could a "spirit of independence" possibly be the world's way that leads to the destruction of marriages and homes! I have 7 unmarried daughters ages 10-22 whom I cherish very much. They all live in my home willingly, and cheerfully under my authority. As God provides godly men for them, they will move DIRECTLY from my home and my authority to their new homes, and under their husband's authority.
This is meant to encourage not to condemn. If everything were going fine in Christian families and marriages today, then we might think these ideas were off the wall, but are they fine???