The current “Life in Christ” column is beautifully written by Archpriest Michel Evdokimov, son of the late theologian Paul Evdokimov, and asks whether we can say that God needs us.
In an earlier post, we saw Miroslav Volf drawing on Luther to distinguish between “human” love and “divine” love: “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.” We do not give something to God that he lacks, but God does desire to be God for us and create new life within us. This “new life” is Christ dwelling within us, so that we might echo God’s giving. We can then say that God desires that we be “Godlike” to our brothers and sisters. In this way, God “needs” us.
I would be grateful for your own thoughts. Here is Fr Evdokimov:
Reversing the usual phrase, can’t we also affirm that God is in need of man, of His human creatures? A number of mystics have tried to explore this paradox. One of them, the seventeenth century German mystic, Angelus Silesius, expressed it in rather audacious terms:
“Without me, God cannot live even for a second.
If I return to nothingness, He will be stripped of His very spirit.”
(The Cherubic Pilgrim)
On a somewhat more playful note, a Jewish mystic expressed the same idea:
“Rabbi Baruch was looking for a way to explain that God is a stranger among men, a companion in exile. One day, his grandson was playing hide-and-seek with another little boy. He hid himself, but his little friend refused to look for him and went on home. The child came running to his grandfather, his eyes filled with tears. Rabbi Baruch’s eyes also filled with tears, and he cried out: ‘God says the very same thing: I hide, but nobody comes to find me!’”
God needs people who are in touch with reality, not those who hide out in a sphere of religiosity, consoling themselves with illusions. Nor does He need those who transform Christian faith into a dried up moralism or some rigid moral system. God needs people who love life. He needs our intelligence, in order for us to understand His purposes. He needs our legs to bring help to our brothers and sisters in distress. He needs our lips to proclaim His Word. He also needs our hearts, so we might pour out an abundance of love, capable of restoring hope to our neighbors. And He needs our faith, so that we might commune with Him in liturgical celebrations where He is “The One who offers and is offered.”
Thereby we can give something of ourselves to this creation as God wanted it to be, and to which He gave Himself entirely by accepting to be born of a pure Virgin in a humble Bethlehem stable. When He came to earth as a newborn child, enfolded in the loving care of His parents, He did so for one fundamental purpose: to show just how much God has need of us, His human creatures.