I can remember being taught to defend myself as early as 3 or 4 years old. I had a cousin who was about three months older than I who insisted on having the upper hand and often left me in tears. I tried going to my parents for comfort, but the response was always the same: “Defend yourself! You need to learn to take care of yourself!”
Many of us were brought up in the school of autonomy. We were taught from a very early age that we must learn to be independent. We were taught that we should depend on no one. We learned to strive for self-sufficiency and exercise the “freedom” to govern ourselves. Interestingly, if we stop and look around, we quickly realize that a vast number of independent folks are devastatingly isolated.
In stark contrast, we find the way of Jesus. Jesus chose to accomplish His purpose with people. Let’s be honest—the disciples probably slowed him down. With all their questions and doubting, the disciples had no clue what Jesus was talking about most of the time. Yet Jesus chose to go at it together. He chose to minister alongside people.
There is something special about unity. Something powerful happens when we lay aside our quest for independence and begin to engage with a kingdom outlook. In Proverbs 18:1 we read that isolation rages against all wisdom. This passage has haunted me. I have seen the devastating effects of isolation. I have seen people lose their passion, their faith, and even their lives in the wake of loneliness. In theory community sounds good, but in practice it is terrifying work—especially if you are a pastor or leader in some capacity within a church environment.
Creating community involves becoming vulnerable, and vulnerability can lead to judgment, rejection, and condemnation. Still, we know there is no love, acceptance, restoration, or redemption without open and honest conversation. Vulnerability is the birthplace of genuine and authentic relationships. Nothing is as powerful as being loved and finding that we belong. Jesus knew this. In John 17 we find Him praying that we [believers] would take the risk and become “perfectly one” (John 17:23 ESV).
It is worth noting that God Himself chooses to work in relationship. Throughout Scripture we find a God who is unequivocally relational. This is why, if we are going to call ourselves disciples of Jesus, we must understand the call to dependence. We were not made to make it on our own. We need His Spirit guiding us daily and leading us to repentance—and we need one another. In John 17, three times Jesus says, “I pray that they would be one, even as you and I are one.” Our unity is evidence to the world that Jesus was sent of God. Nowhere in Scripture do we find any inclination towards autonomy.
As you journey this beautiful pilgrimage of faith, I encourage you to lean on your fellow believers and co-laborers in Christ. Take the risk of being vulnerable with one another. Leave behind the burden of independence. Learn to be a little more dependent; after all, this is the way of our Savior.
JD and Alini Muller are the founding and lead pastors of Connect Community Church in Stamford, CT (ARC church plant No. 471). They planted their church in 2015 with a simple goal: helping people connect to God, connect to others, and connect to purpose. They have more than 22 years of combined ministry experience. They have been married for 16 years and are the proud parents of three little girls. Learn more at connectcommunity.tv.