In my late teens, I was such an idiot sometimes. I had a casual friend with whom I went to a young adult Bible study, and one day she brought along her other friend. Wow. Gorgeous. I found myself spending more time with my casual friend, just so I could hang out with her gorgeous friend. I asked my casual friend questions. Dumb questions, like “Does your friend have a boyfriend?” and “Do you think she likes me?” My casual friend’s excitement about spending more time with me quickly chilled. I ended up dating her gorgeous friend for a short time, until she wanted to put the brakes on our relationship and take more time to get to know one another, which I was unwilling to do. Like I said, I was such an idiot sometimes.
But I have wondered how my casual friend felt about the way I used her to get to her gorgeous friend. Really, it killed our friendship. No one likes the feeling that they are being “used.” It transforms us from being a person to being an object, a tool, as if we are without feelings, brains or dignity. Using people murders love.
In writing this blog, will I be "used" of God? True, it is hard to find the right verb for what we mean by this concept: "employed" by God? "utilized" by God? "exploited" by God? Surely not! But in what other context in the world is it a positive thing to be "used" by anyone? Does God really want to - or more importantly, need to - use us? Or we say that God used some horrible experience or evil action to bring about good. Is that true? Is it even possible?
I think no, on both counts. God does not need us for anything. He does not need a tragic or evil event to bring about his good purposes. When God works through us, he does not "use" us like some ventriloquist's puppet or artist's brush. He respects and retains our individuality in his work: our particular writing style, our sense of humour, our weaknesses and our strengths. When God turns evil into good, he never gets his hands dirty. Darkness flees in his presence; the notion of God using evil ignores his holiness.
Check out the negative uses of "use, used, uses" in the TNIV: Exodus 1:14, 10:26; Judges 2:22; 19:24; Ezekiel 23:43. Gross. There's just one positive example in the TNIV in 2 Corinthians 2:14, which says that God "uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere," but most other translations say that God does this "through us."
So, I hereby drop this word "used" from my vocabulary in reference to God's people. God already has.
What is true about me? I am called by God, I am sent by him, he grants me open doors of opportunity. I want to follow Jesus, I am created to serve him. I desire to trust and obey him.
But I am not an object to be used.
Thanks Jim. I'm keeping an eye out for your next blog post.
Continue that thought Jim, it feels a bit like you're just on the verge of something more.
hmmmmmmmm (Nods thoughtfully). You've given me some good thoughts here, one might even say some "nuggets" to take out and chew on.
I have heard you speak about the christianese before, and I have thought similar things about the term 'Christian' and 'relationship with God' (although the latter, I think I will still have to do some wrestling with for some time before I let you win it that easily) but the use of 'use' never crossed my mind before, but I am ALL for ditching it. It reminds me a bit of the economist-theologian I was listening to that talking against utilitarian ethics and (protestant) capitalism. How's that for a reference!
Keep it coming, I can take it.
Haha, me and Chris Downey were out for coffee today, and I said something about feeling as if God was using me and if I connect the dots correctly, that must've been when he asked me if I had read your blog yet.
Although I agree with you that the word 'used' does bring a negative view to how God is working and that scripture avoids it, I will also argue that it is we who impose that negative interpretation. It is possible to be delighted that your professor would 'use' your paper as an example for future years or a coach would 'use' you as an example in a drill. There is nothing negative about this unless you choose to feel "abused" by them. In this way, we can be delighted that God 'uses' the abilities He has given us. Yes, I think choosing to phrase it differently as in God working 'through' us would be more accurate, but in the end it is a matter of semantics and optimism.
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