Monday, March 19, 2012


I was checking facebook the other day when I saw a post rejoicing over the miracle of divine love. The poster says, "I couldn't live without Jesus," acknowledging the dependence we have on Christ first for mere existence, then for a fulfilling, meaningful life as well. However, this sense of dependence is then said to go both ways: "He couldn't live in a world without me so He chose to die and rise again." Unfortunately, such a statement, while stemming from a desire to honor and praise God, actually greatly decreases the wonder of the cross and the love God bears for us. It contaminates the selfless love of Christ with the selfishness that is inherent in even the best of human relationships.

The more I think about this, the larger the issue becomes. I am reminded of my time with jr. high children, and vague memories of my own time at that age: The class is asked, "Why did God create us?" The answer(usually coming from a boy, and, at one time, probably myself) is that God was bored. That God wanted someone to play with.

We are faced with two questions.Why did God create us? Why did God die for us? And the two given answers, though stemming from vastly different attitudes--one from a desire to make a joke, the other from a desire to give glory to God--share the same basic flaw. They push our sense of dependence onto God.

Although the child jokes when saying that God was bored, he is working from a very basic premise: "When I am alone, I am bored." Most humans are dependent on others, to one extent or another, for everything, from  food and housing to basic entertainment. The child then naturally extends this sense of dependence to God.

The poster on facebook, likewise, understands the very basic principal that we are dependent on Christ. "In him we live and move and have our being," and without him we would not exist. But even granting the common grace that Christ gives to all humanity and, indeed, all creation, we still cannot live, with meaning and joy and true purpose, without his special grace. The poster also recognizes that when we love someone or something, we often become dependent on that thing. I am dependent on my wife. My earthly happiness is wrapped up in her, and when she is not with me, it is diminished.  The poster then puts this same sense of dependence on Christ himself. "He could not live in a world without me." 

And this is where the poster is wrong. Because in saying, "he could not live in a world without me," the poster ascribes a certain motive to Christ's death. And this motive is not love, as it first appears. If Christ could not live without us, then his death is no longer in love. It is self-preservation. It is protecting that which he is dependent on. It is selfishness (and, indeed, most human love is contaminated by selfishness, as demonstrated by Lewis in The Four Loves, The Great Divorce, and 'Till We Have Faces)

God created us. He loves us. He died to save us... but that is not the same as saying that he could not live without us. Indeed, if he could not live without us, it would be no great feat of love to die for us: it would be mere self-preservation. And it is here that we begin to realize the true extent of his love for us. The greatness of his sacrifice, the proof of his unselfish love, lies in his complete self-sufficiency. He needs no one but himself... and still he dies to save us. To make God dependent on us in any fashion is to reduce his love to a merely human level... and that is so much less than the independent, self-sufficient fullness that he pours out on us for no other reason than his loving will.

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