The title sounds harsh, but as I see it, presenting God as a deity who will use His children to further His ends heads down a dangerous slope. I am not judging Christians who like to say this phrase. For most, I am sure it comes from a place of wanting to be a part of what God is doing. I want to be a part of what God is doing, too. But I definitely don’t want to be used.
At first, I thought my dislike of this phrase had to do with my narcissistic ex-husband, and undoubtedly it does. He used me all the time to run interference between the world and the little cocoon of his locked office in which he sat doing who knows what on his computer. In the end, I was the breadwinner and the housewife, the mother and father in our little, terrorized household. But there is more to it than an emotional reaction. An important spiritual principle is at stake.
I remember when a friend said to me, “Alice, you are not a tool.” She was not being funny. She wanted to make a point. I’d left my first marriage years ago and was well into my current marriage when she said it. I really thought I was a happiness obtainment tool. I was the means to that unattainable end of everyone else’s happiness.
That is really what co-dependency is; to become the object by which others get they want.
So you pour into them.
In fact, you are more dedicated to their happiness than they are.
One thing that I have learned is that if you want to dedicate yourself to someone else’s happiness, they will have no objection. None whatsoever. Objectification is something we normally associate with women in advertising or pornography, but it is far more common than even advertising.
We turn ourselves into objects when we turn our backs on our own agency, on our own personhood in favor of pleasing others.
Objectification has another even uglier side. Every major civilization was built on the backs of slaves, even ours. Estimates of contemporary slavery run from 21-49 million persons who are forced to work or are forced to be prostitutes. Far more slaves exist now in the world than one hundred fifty years ago and I am told the numbers of them in the US would shock me.
Slavery is one ot the worst kinds of objectification. It is using people like machines.
I have often said, in imitation of Frederick Douglas, that there were no ‘good’ slave owners. He makes a convincing case that the act of enslaving another degrades the value of life, much as abortion does. For abortion is really just another form of objectification. It turns him or her into it. One abortion rights advocate even called the unborn baby a fetal parasite. That is purely iniquitous.
Genocide is objectification as well, and worse than even slavery. Though in fact, the two are often found hand in hand. In order to kill off an entire race of people, best present them as less than human. Look up the rat-like depictions of Jews in Nazi propaganda, and you will see what I mean. In fact, objectification is the evil of all evils, I think. To turn a human being into a thing is a grave dishonor. The definition of honor is to place the value of people above things.
So is God a ‘good’ slave-owner? He who gave Himself for our sake does not objectify us. He is not a conquering God, bent on spreading the kingdom using martyrs like kings use soldiers as war fodder.
He is a conquering God who won through the passion of the Christ in an act of selfless love.
He won by defeating the objectification of religion which turned men into white-washed sepulchers.
Or perhaps God needs us to make Him happy? We are not His co-dependent worshipers, pouring ourselves out to keep Him happy. That makes Him a narcissist. Modern physics tells us that all matter is made of sound and light. God spoke us into existence and continues to do so. Praising God means that we are tuning ourselves to the Singer of the original song.
Praise makes sure we are in tune and not discordant. It is for us, not Him.
I don’t think I am making too big a deal about a three letter word. The word ‘use’ means what it means. The dictionary says to use is to take, hold, or deploy (something) as a means of accomplishing a purpose or achieving a result. When we ask God to use us, we are missing the real point, the real end for which God came, which is us. We are the ends. He is the means. He turned Himself into sin on the cross so we could be His people. That’s right. He turned Himself into sin so we would have the freedom to be a member of His great family.
We are the ends. He is the means.
And He is still busy redeeming people from the slavery of sin. He invites us to take part with Him as a son or daughter, as a bride, and as a friend. Metaphors of service, yes. Metaphors of objectification, no.
But in religion, government, even marriage, being an object has benefits. Objects are passive. They have no choice. Objects just do what they are told, or are used for what they are used for. Hence the lure of co-dependency and religiosity. Sometimes when we ask God to use us, we are asking Him to choose for us, to take the decision from us. He does not do that. He invites us as co-laborers in the great white harvest.
It is quite simply against the very nature of God to use any of us for anything.
The language of use turns Jesus into that which He came to defeat; an enslaver. He makes requests of us, which we are free to decline. And yes, sometimes God nudges our conscience. But even then, nothing is compulsory.
In the end, the language of use defies the basic tenet of free will. When we ask God to use us, we ask Him to rescind this incredible gift of choice.
Come into a relationship with this incredible God of mercy. Become a bondservant like Paul. A bondservant gives up his or her choice willingly.
But know that God does not see you as a slave. He does not want to use you. He wants you to be a part of the family, doing wonderful deeds He has prepared in advance for you to do.
He invites you to adventure and healing. Martyrs throughout the ages went to their graves praising God. They were already free.
Can you imagine having a relationship so vital, so potent, that even death can not still the praises on your tongue? If not, then it is time to figure out what all the fuss is about. And if you can, it is not because you see God as a task master or an owner, but as Abba, loving Father.
Since therefore the children partake of blood and flesh, he also, in like manner, took part in the same, that through death he might annul him who has the might of death, that is, the devil; and might set free all those who through fear of death through the whole of their life were subject to bondage. Hebrew 2: 14-15