GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 656 • July 4, 2021
A DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE
I remember a Barbra Streisand song from the 1960’s with the words, “People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world” (from the Broadway musical play Funny Girl). There is a great truth here that is often missed. Everybody needs somebody, sometime, for something – and the person who recognizes and acknowledges it is more likely to have his needs met than one who does not. Many are not aware of their personal needs. Some deny that they need anything or anyone but themselves. The macho tough guy image is in with many people today (both male and female are afflicted with feelings of independence). Any person who admits needing help is a “wimp, dweeb, nerd” (there are some terms worse than these).
“INDEPENDENCE” IS ILLUSION — FANTASY.
Would you sign this declaration of independence? “I have never needed, do not now need, and never will need anyone or anything that I cannot do for myself.” If you feel this way, you’ll probably never get a decent haircut – and you’d better hope you never have to have your tonsils or appendix removed. Most people who claim independence do not intend their words to be taken literally, or pushed to extremes. But why say something you do not (and cannot) mean?
If taken literally, what does it mean to say that one has not needed, does not need, and will not need anyone or anything else – that one is truly independent? It is like saying, I am self-sufficient. I can supply all my own needs. I am self-existent and self-producing. I have always existed, and I gave myself the life I now live in this body and in this world. I am self-determining. I am not answerable to anyone or anything other than myself. I am self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. I stay alive, and I will never allow myself to die, or cease to exist. I am independent of all things, dependent upon no person, power, or thing (including both man and God?). Actually, only a madman would make such a claim. Neither a person nor a nation can make such a claim. We did not produce ourselves. Each of us is subject to natural law in a world we did not produce. Each of us has limitations – each needs things we cannot supply for ourselves. We have needs which we cannot fulfill.
WE ARE DEPENDENT UPON (WE HONESTLY NEED) OTHER PEOPLE.
We depend upon and we are the product of those who have gone before us, for physical resources, social structure and civilization, language and communication skills, religious and civil liberties, national identity and heritage. We are dependent upon those around us now for companionship, supplying what we are not able to do for ourselves, such as teaching, healing, etc. To accept these things from others without acknowledging the debt or without expressing gratitude is a sure sign of insensitivity.
WE ARE DEPENDENT UPON GOD TOO. LET US COUNT THE WAYS.
We depend upon a world created, sustained, kept dependably stable, and governed by “natural laws” over which we have no control. So we are physically dependent upon God. This implies dependence upon a Creator (Gen. 1:1). The earth is the Lord’s and we are stewards of it (Psalm 24:1, 1 Cor. 4:2). We are mentally dependent upon God. “Science” can only find and explain what the Creator has already placed in the world – present or potential. All truth is from God, no matter who helps us to find it, in any category that one can mention (John 17:17, 1 John 1:5). We are morally dependent upon God. Of course there is something to be said for relative or contextual morality. See for example 1 Cor. 11:16 in its context. But moral truth is ultimately from God. The absolute standard of right and wrong – revealed and preserved for us in scripture (2 Peter 1:1-4, 2 Tim. 3:16-17) – is from God. Nations too are guided by and subject to the moral principles of God’s word (Rom. 13:1ff) Contextual or cultural latitude must be sanctioned by the scripture. It cannot set scripture aside (Mt. 15:8-9, John 10:35). We are spiritually dependent upon God. Not only for truth about God and our own spiritual being, but also for resolution of the sin problem, for salvation from sin provided by God through the sacrifice of Christ, and not from ourselves (Rom. 5:1-8, 6:3-4). We are socially dependent upon God. He adds the saved together into one body, for fellowship with himself and with each other as His people (1 John 1:4 and 7, Acts 2:47, Eph. 2:21f). Each person needs the church, more than the church needs any person. All social needs can be met by and in the church – if all were truly Christian, there would be only one church in all the world, with all people in it. We are emotionally dependent upon God. Peace, love, joy, hope, etc. come only to those who accept, acknowledge, and adjust to the relationship to God and others that is prescribed in the New Testament (Gal. 5:22, 2 Peter 1:5-10). Peace – emotional stability and spiritual serenity – is from God, for those who seek Him and obey Him in the Christ (Phil. 4:4-9).
WE ARE INTERDEPENDENT. WE LIVE AS NEEDY PEOPLE AMONG NEEDY OTHERS.
The illusion of independence from others allows one not only to claim that he himself needs no one, but also to insist that others be independent too. Independence is no more possible for others than it is for you, or me. But insisting that others be independent is a way of telling them that they must “shift for themselves and take care of themselves,” that they must not make any claims upon you or depend upon you for anything. Complete dependence upon others is not healthy. At best it is immature and childish. “Conduct yourselves like men” – in a mature and grown-up way (1 Cor. 16:13). At worst it is laziness, being a parasite, taking everything and giving nothing. Compare 2 Thess. 3:10 “If one will not work, neither let him eat.” Also Eph. 4:28 “Steal no more, but work…to have something to give to the (genuinely) needy.”
The healthy concept of human relationships is that we are interdependent. It is a kind of symbiosis. We need each other. We receive from others and give to others, so that everyone’s needs are met. This is the biblical plan for church members (Eph. 4:15f, 1 Cor. 12:12-27), and it applies to all human relationships (1 John 4:17-18, Gal. 6:9-10). Obviously the concept of interdependence cannot be applied to our relationship with God. God does not actually need anything we can do for Him (Acts 17:24-25). But He desires worship and service from those who receive His blessings (John 4:23-24, Rom. 12:1-2, Phil. 2:12-13). He desires to use us as His instruments to teach, serve, and otherwise bless others (2 Cor. 4:5, 5:20, 6:1).
As every person and all people come to realize and appreciate our interdependence, the world situation will improve for all people everywhere. We will not think more highly of ourselves than we should (Rom. 12:3). We will not think less of others than we should (Luke 18:9, Phil. 2:3-4). I cheerfully acknowledge that I need and depend upon many others, and I am glad to be responsible to and for those who depend upon me. It is necessary that we understand and acknowledge our debt to those who have kept the faith, who have taught and are teaching the truth of God, who continue to walk faithfully with God. But above all, we must acknowledge our dependence upon God and the truth that is only from Him (2 Cor. 1:9b, 2:16b, 3:5-6a and 9:8). I confess that I am dependent upon God, the Creator, giver and sustainer of all that is good and needful in life – the Savior of my soul now and forever (2 Tim. 1:12) “I know Him whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him.”
Some who seem to be immune to stress are effective carriers.
Success is not the ability to keep your hands in another’s pockets.