We exist in a “DIY” society. By that, I mean independence is highly prioritized. There’s a push for young men and women to forge their own way. Being dependent is often looked down upon. But this self-sufficiency and personal autonomy is not how many societies around the world operate.
In Africa or Asia, for example, we find collectivist cultures. Rather than a “DIY” mentality, they view themselves as parts of a whole. They identify themselves as dependent on one another. So, people in individualist cultures like the United States often have a mentality of being disconnected from those around them. Those in collectivist cultures, on the other hand, often have a mentality of being so closely connected to one another that individualism seems selfish and alienating.
I’m not here to debate which of those sociological concepts is best for society. But I do think it’s important for us to understand how difficult it often is to recognize our need for dependence in an individualistic culture.
I say all of that to say this: when it comes to our relationship with God, we’re desperately dependent. And when it comes to our relationship with other brothers and sisters in Christ, an individualistic mentality stifles Christian community. This is why we often hear people say, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” In their individualistic mindset, their faith is disconnected from other Christians.
So, while an individualistic culture might be what most of us prefer sociologically, something needs to be said of our dependence on Christ and His people. And that’s what I want us to focus on this week.
Jesus says, “‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing’” (Jn. 15:1-5 ESV).
Jesus likens us to branches. And, as His disciples, we’re called to bear fruit. But, as Jesus makes clear, the only way for us to bear fruit is for our branches to be attached to the vine, who is Christ. The vinedresser, as Jesus explains, is God the Father. If we don’t bear fruit, we are cut away. And if we do produce fruit, we are pruned.
If we’re to live our lives in obedience to Christ’s call to make disciples (see Mt. 28:19-20), we must recognize our dependence on Him. We must recognize how we, as branches, are unable to produce fruit on our own. We must remain attached to the vine and submitted to the vinedresser. Only then can we be effective disciples for the kingdom of God.
I don’t know about you, but I often forget just how needy I am for Christ. It’s easy for me to think I have what it takes to live the life I’m called to live.
So, I try to gather courage apart from Christ. I try to reach people without prayer. And I try to bear fruit without realizing the dependency I have on the vine.
As we walk this journey of faith, I pray we recognize the power available to us as we seek to serve the Lord. As we abide in Christ and rely on Him, we find joy. And that joy must characterize our obedience as we seek to make disciples here and now.
Let’s be needy for Jesus.