Here in the United States we celebrated Independence Day yesterday. For some the day was filled with a parade, sun, food, and time in the pool followed by music in the park and fireworks. In this country this day reminds us of freedom, and how costly that freedom is. But when it comes to many important things, you must choose either independence or transformation; you can’t have both.
Independence is actually a fallacy. Other cultures and other periods of history have understood this better than we often do. And I’m all for limited government and deeply honoring those who have and are protecting our freedoms. But we are not truly independent. And healthy transformation almost never happens solo.
There’s a paradox in here somewhere. To experience the lasting change you want in any area of life you must accept personal responsibility. You’ve got to step up, do the work, learn new things, and stick with it. Spiritually that means cooperating with God in taking the necessary steps to work together with Him. Sitting back and waiting for God, the government, your spouse, or anyone else to do the work won’t cut it. You won’t change by just waiting.
But that is far from saying you’re independent in this process of transformation. The New Testament talks about one another far too often to miss. The body of Christ is all about interdependence. The Holy Spirit gives gifts so that “we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)
If you want to grow up, if you want to be transformed in any meaningful way, you’ve got to be connected.
What Others Cannot Do for You
Some people hear “one another” and immediately look for what everyone else “should” be doing for them. The pastor should visit more often. Somebody from the church should pray and make their financial or physical problems all better. Their spouse should be treating them better and they can’t be happy until he/she changes. Everybody else is responsible for giving time, talent, and treasure, but they somehow are off the hook. (Does anything here step on your toes a bit?)
That’s not what one another means in the New Testament. Regardless of their spiritual strength or resources, others cannot do these things for you;
- Hear from God
- Study the Scriptures
- Fight your spiritual battles for you
- Exercise your faith
- Tell what God has done for you
Waiting for others to do for you what God is asking you to do for yourself will only lead to frustration. And it certainly won’t lead to any lasting change.
What Others CAN Do for You
Here are a few ways deeply connecting with others CAN propel your transformation forward. These are some things healthy connections with other believers will make possible.
Perspective. All of us have blind spots. One important function of a first responder or soldier having a buddy is that they may see what you can’t see. Giving a few people access to your life at a depth that allows them to intervene when they see red flags can prevent all kinds of problems.
Encouragement. Research shows that an important challenge appears much less overwhelming when someone is next to you. Endurance, resilience, and attitude are improved when you have someone with you as you go through the tough stuff. Encouragement is like invisible fuel propelling you forward to do more than you could have done on your own.
Prevent discouragement. The converse is also true. When you face setbacks and problems it’s much easier to get discouraged when you’re alone. As Ecclesiastes says, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)
Mutuality. One of the best ways to improve your mental attitude is to do something for someone else. Doing life together with a few other believers gives you opportunity to see when they need help as well, and by helping them you help yourself.
Inspiration. The right friends can “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24) Seeing a moment of transformation in someone else can inspire you to reach for your own change. Having a friend acknowledge where you have changed inspires you to keep going.
This Christian life is not intended to be done solo. That’s something I have to remind myself of frequently. While others cannot walk for you, your own walk will be significantly strengthened and propelled forward by staying connected.
If you, like I do, often default to independence, take this opportunity to review how you are staying connected with others. You need people around you who lift you up, and also people who you invest yourself in to lift them up. Make sure you’re doing both. Don’t wait for others to come find you; you prayerfully invest in the connections you need and value.
When it comes to spiritual transformation, connection is better than independence.
Your Turn: Is your default to remain independent or to seek connection? Are you looking to others for what they CAN give rather than what they can’t? Leave a comment below.
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