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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Slave to a Better Master


Tomorrow, in the United States, is July 4, and we celebrate Independence Day, remembering the date when our founding fathers decided it was time to rebel against Great Britain and form a new nation.  It took several years for that declaration to become reality as they fought against the British soldiers in a variety of skirmishes, and then had to come to agreement about how the new nation would be constructed. Nevertheless, it is the day the Declaration of Independence was signed that we remember and celebrate.

Many people seek independence in lots of ways.  I think that, no matter how independent we may think we are, the truth is we are far more dependent and inter-dependent than most of us would want to admit.  We rely on others to manufacture vehicles and provide gasoline so we can move from one place to another.  We rely on others to make medicines to help us when we become ill. We rely on others to provide clean water to our homes, along with electricity and natural gas to light and heat our homes.  That list could go on forever, for we really are not as independent as we might like to believe.  

In Romans 6, the assertion is made that none of us is actually independent at all, for we are all either slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness, depending on whether or not we are pursuing God’s ways in our lives or ignoring them.  A lot of people like to pretend this isn’t true…but challenge someone to live a single day without a single sin….it will become quickly clear that they are not able to do so.  It might be a small sin that day, but it will not be the perfection of God they experience on their own.

In seeking independence, though, people pursue many different avenues to get there.  Some seek to throw off any constraints on their behaviors, reject the norms and rules of others and declare themselves “independent”…often to their own hurt. Others declare independence when they reach adulthood, and move out of their parents’ home to establish a home of their own, fending for themselves as they venture out into a new life.  That tends to be a pretty good thing, it seems to me…although sometimes it is done in a very high-handed and angry manner. Still others decide they can no longer handle the ties of their marriage, and run to divorce court seeking their independence.  Interestingly enough, that isn’t what they always find is the result of pursuing divorce. 

Of course, it truly depends on the circumstances.   For instance, there is the person who has suffered years of abuse, and been stifled from being able to be the person they were meant to be because of a domineering and controlling spouse (which can be the husband OR the wife, by the way).  Such a person may well experience the divorce as a liberation into the freedom to be the person they truly are meant to be, and to experience a meaningful and positive life rather than the repression they have suffered.  But a person whose experience of marriage has been shared responsibility in the ongoing tasks of life may well find that their so-called independence has instead become a very burdensome life dominated by overwhelming tasks that once were cared for by their spouse.

When children are involved, so-called independence from a spouse can become instead an entangled nightmare of waiting for or trying to raise child-support, figuring out holiday schedules that are not convenient for anyone, and lop-sided parenting with children receiving very different perspectives on what the divorce means and what appropriate values in life are. Sometimes, the individual trying to manage to pay child support can find themselves struggling to meet their own daily bills to survive.  Far from being the wonderful independence imagined, life becomes extremely complicated and frustrating.  Sometimes it would be wise for those seeking independence through divorce to take time to visit with someone who has gone through it, so that they base their decision on reality, not on a fantasy notion of what independence from their spouse would be like.

My point is, sometimes “independence” isn’t really all we are led to believe it is.  There certainly is great good in the idea, as I certainly have no desire to live in a country run by a capricious dictator.  However, it seems to me that the most fulfilling of lives is not found in demanding some kind of independence, but in learning, as Paul said in Romans, how to be slave to a better master than self-centeredness and sin.  God’s slaves, or servants, end up pursuing the kind of life for which they were designed by their Creator, and thus find a kind of fulfillment that can be found nowhere else.  Dependence isn’t such a bad thing, when you dependent on Someone whose goal is to make sure you have the best possible life you could ever have, and who has promised to meet every need you would ever face.  
By the way, my fellow Americans, early wishes for a Happy Independence Day!

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