Certainly within Christian circles the answer to the question posed in the title, Does Man Need God, is a no-brainer. “That’s the point of our message,” we’ll cry. Of course it’s just as much a no-brainer to think that if I didn’t have something to say that might stir the pot, I’d just keep my mouth shut, so I am here to unequivocally state the opposite:
Man does not need God, God needs man.
Now, just in case those in the bleachers didn’t hear, or if you perhaps thought I might be a bit dystypic, allow me say again:
Man does not need God, God needs man.
Actually, this is a concept so fundamental, one that we see and understand so readily, it is interesting that we’ve gotten it so wrong in this particular case.
For example, think of a car and let me ask you: does a car need a windshield, or does a windshield need a car? We understand the relationship between the two and recognize the windshield was made for the car, not the car for the windshield. We understand that the windshield exists to perform one function – the role it plays in the car. Yet we also know that a car needs a windshield, a windshield doesn’t need a car. This relationship certainly doesn’t cause us to place more importance upon the windshield than the car.
Think of a machine, and let me ask you, does a machine need a gear, or does a gear need a machine? Again, we know that the gear was made for the machine, not the reverse. We understand the gear was made only for the role it plays within the machine. And we also grasp that the machine needing the gear does not make the machine inferior to the gear.
But when it comes to God and man, hoo-boy! State that God needs man and suddenly people are pulling out their hair and turning blue. But, as in our previous examples, just because God needs man does not make God inferior to man.
Man was made for the role that he plays within God, he is the windshield to God’s car. But when you turn the declaration around and say that Man needs God, suddenly God becomes the gear to man’s machine. This is the reason you see statements like: God must be #1 in your life, family #2 and your job #3. Or, to restate, God must be the most important gear in your machine. Others, viewing themselves as more religiously insightful, say that God should be your ALL. In other words, God should be the only gear in your machine. But the real problem isn’t whether or not your God gear is competing with other gears or chugging along by his lonesome; the real problem is in how we have arranged the order of the relationship.
You might feel that, “God don’t need nobody or nothing!” A viewpoint such as this is completely antonymic to the nature of God. As we discussed in the last post, we are evolving into the image of God. And one of the things that is supposed to happen is that we are to be built into a body, with the parts becoming mutually dependent. And this mirrors the nature of God, a being whose relationships are mutually dependent.
We see dependency as weakness. Countering this, Paul says, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” When Jesus commands the name of the demon possessing the Gadarene, the answer is, “I am Legion, for we are many.” This is the nature of the enemy. Independence. Temporal strength, eternal weakness. God says, “I am one.” This is the nature of God. Dependency. Temporal weakness, eternal strength. The fall of Satan was caused by his misunderstanding of the strength of dependency. In becoming independent, he saw himself as stronger than God. But like Achilles or Siegfried, it leaves a spot of vulnerability which cannot be covered, because a covering would declare a dependency.
Another declaration you might have heard is, “There is a God-shaped void within man that can only be filled by God.” One of the first things you are taught if you take any decent drawing instruction is that negative space defines an object to the same degree as positive space. As a person, you are defined both by any void within you as well as by the spaces that are filled. So if you have a God-shaped void, and if God is good, then you are shaped in part by good. That would mean that you have good within you. And if there is good within you, then you do not need a way to goodness because, as Whitney sang, the greatest love already lies within. Thus the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice is eliminated and he becomes a liar, because he says, “I am the way,” and leaves us with no other options.
Rather, there is a man-shaped void within God. He needs us. He is dependent upon us. And it is this very need, this very dependency that makes him strong. This is a lesson we must learn. Not to become needy or pathetic, but to do as the scriptures ask: forsake not the assembling of ourselves together. This doesn’t mean we should all be sitting in the same room; it is talking about being built, being assembled, into that dependent spiritual man.
So then, what is the role that we are meant to fill? What does the man gear do? That is the topic of the next post.