It’s a common question. I ask it. Maybe you do, too.
Looking for some way to connect with a stranger at a party, perhaps. To see if we have something in common. Innocent enough. But sometimes it is more than that. It can be a symptom of our human-doing/identity-seeking syndrome.
Oh my gosh, don’t we learn it early and easy? At home where we are most loved, and at school where teachers want the best for us?
Even in church!
Just think about what we say to each other:
“Jesus didn’t save you just so you could go to heaven. He saved you so you could be a witness.”
“Jesus healed and did miracles when he was on earth because he needed to get their attention and let them know his power. So they would know he was the son of God. He doesn’t need that now.”
“You are blessed to be a blessing.”
It all sounds so spiritual and true! And might be, to a degree. But these sayings carry an unintended, hidden message. A message that is both untrue and debilitating. Maybe we don’t all hear these things and think, “You aren’t really important yourself. What you bring to the table is what counts. The more you bring, the more important you are. Your value to God is in what you do for him.” But some of us do. Eventually. And we often aren’t even aware we think that way. But our drivenness, our burnout, our frustration, and even our oft depression are evidence that we are carrying some untruth in our hearts. Perhaps this one.
Oh, but doesn’t that perspective reflect the “way of the world”? We are valued by what we accomplish, how much money we make, who we know and, basically, what we can do for someone?
But is that really God’s way?
Maybe in the light of “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…” we should tone down the usefulness rhetoric. After all, in the record of Jesus’ travels do we ever read that he was so moved with the need for more witnesses of his power that he healed all that came to him?
No, it doesn’t.
It does say he healed all that came to him, and more beside. (Some he sought out himself!) But he was “moved with compassion” and he “had mercy” on them. No assessment of their usefulness anywhere in the records.
Is “toning down the rhetoric” too simple a fix for the soul-sickness of human-doingness? Maybe, but if we acknowledge his love more than focussing on our usefulness, we might be helped down the road to freedom.
Freedom from the need to earn our place in the family.
Freedom to act in joyful response to his “love shed abroad”.
Freedom to appreciate the honour of sharing his vision.
Might that be enough?