It’s All About Interdependence

mj0IMGUNote: this is the fourth post in a series exploring a trinitarian understanding of the relationship between the genders (yep, you read that right!). The introductory post is here, the second post is here, and the third post is here.

As a culture, we don’t do interdependence very well. Ours is a culture whose narratives include concepts such as  “rugged individualism,” “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “every man (or woman?) for himself.” Heck, one of our national cornerstones is a document titled the Declaration of Independence. But here’s the thing:

Independence is not the Biblical norm.

Instead, the Bible emphasizes community. It calls people to connectedness. It tells stories like “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” To be sure, the individual has a part to play in the Biblical narrative, but the vast weight of the data is on the collective.

Consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s take on this, from his book Life Together (and please excuse the gender exclusive language):

“The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged…The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother.”

Now that’s interdependence.

Friends, we are who we are as interdependent people because we’re created in the image of God, and, in the Trinity, we find an eternally interdependent, forever mutually reliant relationship. Simply put, God, Jesus and the Spirit need each other to accomplish their mission. They are interdependent.

We can see the interdependence that marks the Trinity in many places in Scripture. As just one example, consider the story of Jesus’ baptism from Matthew 3:16-17:

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

What a beautiful picture of synergy and partnership! Jesus the Redeemer, about to start his earthly ministry, bathed in affirmation from the heavenly voice of his Father and empowered by the descending Holy Spirit.

For us, this interdependence applies across the relational spectrum. Kids and parents are interdependent. So too are churches and pastors. We express our interdependence when accountability groups meet, when Bible studies gather and when we partner together in the work of evangelism.

In his article “The Trinity and the Mission of Jesus,” theologian Howard Snyder writes:

“All areas of Christian living are to be marked by interdependent community—the family, the church, and our educational institutions. A certain tension exists here. A key test of the authenticity of our discipleship is whether we maintain the functional centrality of this mutual interdependence, or allow it to be compromised by institutional structures and relationships.”

When it comes to the genders, we are likewise called to interdependence, and this call goes way back. Like to the beginning. Consider Genesis 1:26-28:

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created humankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

In the Genesis story, God calls Adam and Eve to shared dominion over the newly created order. Both are called to rule and subdue…together. In this way, the pre-fall relationship between the genders is characterized by interdependence.

Like the Trinity, we need one another. And by affirming the necessity of women and men partnering together, the creation account declares our gender interdependence.

What about you? How have you been blessed by God’s creation intent for interdependence between the genders?

4 responses to “It’s All About Interdependence”

  1. Dave Dixon says :

    Nicely done Rob! Well-written post. Now, about those other 3 earlier posts…I’ll read those soon!

    Cousin Dave

  2. Amy Davis Abdallah says :

    Hello! I came across your blog on a search for “Jesus” and “Interdependence.” I only read this entry (so far), but I found it quite insightful. I’m a college professor who teaches Historical Theology, so I am quite familiar with the misogynist sayings of the early theologians.

    I am in the middle of a writing project for women, and this chapter is on relationships with others, where I encourage interdependence. I enact a rite of passage into womanhood for college seniors, and I’m writing a new book for them to read to accompany the year-long process (it stemmed from my dissertation).

    Anyhow, I like some of the way you put things, so I’m planning to cite you, but I’m having a hard time finding your name! Is that intentional?

    Thanks for doing what you do!

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