Interdependence: Seeing by the Light of Others

We were created for friendship. It is more than a desire. It is a need. One of the themes that runs through Scripture, from the creation account in Genesis 2:18-25 to the promise of the coming Eternal City of God in Revelation 21:1-5 is that we are meant to live in community. We need each other. No person is an island. We each have something to bring to the whole to make both the church and the world a better place. Consider this passage from 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 12:14-18 (ESV)
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

When we read a passage like this one, we might think the primary point is that we need to accept people whose gifts and talents are different from ours. But this passage takes us beyond the lesson of merely accepting people who are different. It tells us we were made to be interdependent: we lack things we need others to provide, and they need things from us.

For Paul’s original audience, these words from 1 Corinthians were really hard to accept. He wrote this letter to a church comprised of both Jews and Gentiles—people groups who grew up despising each other. As young Christians, they were brand new at learning how to accept one another, let alone see each other as assets in their lives.

And yet, this is the teaching of Scripture. The impact of the Gospel is that it draws us out of isolation and supplies good things for us through the love and service of others. And it also tells us God has created us to provide good for others too.

The good we contribute is often a multi-step, multi-person process. One person draws up the plan, another lays the brick, and another works the door to welcome in the one in need of shelter. All four people in that scenario rely on each other for the good the Lord brings about. The Gospel reveals our true interdependence. Consider this bit from C.S. Lewis:

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a (Charles) joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald… true friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth.” – (from The Four Loves.)

Where have you experienced the kind of relational dynamic Lewis describes in the quote above, where it takes one of your friends to draw out a quality you need from another friend? Beyond just getting along, what are some ways the church (and the world) benefits when we pursue humble interdependence?

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