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As you look at your life and as you look at the world around you, do you think you are seeing a reflection of What God Wants? If not, what do you think that God does want?
I have an idea to propose here. What if–just what if, for the sake of intellectual discussion–we decided that the answer was: Nothing. Absolutely nothing at all?
Please think about this.
No, really. Don’t just plow ahead, impatient to see where this blog is going from here, or click out of it, convinced that it has nothing after all to say to you. Just…stop for a moment. Will you? Will you just stop?
What does God want?
Absolutely nothing at all.
How does that feel to you? How does that thought feel when you try it on?
Does it produce an empty feeling? Does it produce anger? Does it produce simple agreement, as in “ho-hum, nothing new”? Does it confuse you? Does it make you happy?
How do you think the world at large would react if it turned out to be true? What, if anything, do you think would change?
(The answer to that last question might surprise you.)
Can there be any kind of meaningful theology if we have a God who wants nothing?
If we say that God wants nothing, are we as much as saying that there is no God at all? If we all agree that there is a God, but that there is nothing God wants, then what is God up to? What is God’s purpose and function? Why believe in God? Who needs one?
Some people have come to these questions and walked away shrugging their shoulders, saying, “There is no reason to believe in God. We don’t need one.”
I would argue strenuously that the first of those above two statements is false, and the second is true. There is a reason–and a very good one–to believe in God, and…we don’t need God.
The reason to believe in God is that this belief opens us to the possibility of God’s power playing a role in our lives. You can’t use the power of God if you can’t believe in the existence of that power.
Yet why would we care about using the power of God if we don’t need God? Fair question. The very fact that we can use the power of God is why we don’t need God. The answer is circular. If a rich man writes you into his will in which he says he has given you all of his money, placing it is a safe deposit box for you, then you don’t need that man.
Yet if you don’t believe the man ever existed, you will not even go to the safe deposit box to get the money. You won’t believe the money is there. You’ll think it’s all a ruse, a farce. You’ll be rich and won’t know it.
God made us “in the image and likeness of God.” This is a truth. This is not just a nice statement, it is what is so. It is as the Scriptures tell us: “Is it not written, Ye are gods?”
The idea that we need God is an illusion. It is an act of forgetfulness. It is what we imagine is true when we forget who we really are, rejecting our inheritance. If our belief in God is based on the idea that we need God for some reason, then most of our interactions with God will be dysfunctional. And, of course, they are. That’s the point here.
The very best reason to believe in God is that we don’t need God. God has made us capable enough to get along just fine, as any good parent would. Thus, we can be open to just loving God–and just loving God is the most powerful thing any of us could ever do. That’s because love unleashes the power of who we are, and when that power is unleashed, there is nothing we cannot do. Which is, of course, what God intended.
God did not intend for us to be dependent on Him. God intended for us to be independent. Free. And not only free, but fully capable. Of what? Of producing, of creating, of experiencing what we have long desired.
But just loving God means, of course, that we would stop fearing God–and that could only happen if we thought we did not need God. So long as we imagine that we need God for something, we invite fear, because, of course, we believe that there is always a chance that God will not give us what we need.
Most of humanity’s interactions with God are dysfunctional precisely because most of humanity has created a need-based relationship with God. This relationship not only assumes that we need something from God but, perhaps of more profound implication, that God needs something from us.
The relationship with God that so many people on earth have established falls apart if it is true that God wants nothing at all from human beings. Yet because the relationship falls apart does not mean the relationship is ended. Sometimes things need to fall apart for things to truly fall together for the first time. It does not always serve us to shy away from ideas that may cause things to fall apart. So let’s look again, and now more deeply, at this idea:
What does God want?
Absolutely nothing at all.
Please think about it. Even if you disagree with it vehemently, think about it.
Especially if you disagree, please think about it deeply.
What makes you disagree?
Who told you that this statement could not be true?
What makes them right?
How do you know that they know what is true? Because they read it in a book? Fair enough. But then, what makes the book right? Because God said it was right? Which God? Which book?
Think about this deeply if only for the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual exercise.
Let’s pretend just for the moment that it’s true that God wants nothing from humanity. If that is so, then virtually all of life’s apple carts are upended. Ancient myths are upended. Cultural stories are upended. Ethnic customs are upended. Familial traditions are upended. Religious doctrines are upended. Legal systems and educational systems are upended. Political, economic, and social constructions of every kind are upended.
Could this be the reason that the idea of a God who wants something has been perpetuated?
Think about this.
Why would God want anything? What is it that God could possibly want or need? What would cause God to want or need anything? What could cause God to become unhappy if He did not get it?
Now think about this…
What could cause God to make humans responsible for His getting what He wants? Would you make your children responsible for your happiness?
We have been told of a God who wants humans to love Him, to worship Him, to adore Him, to surrender to Him, to be grateful to Him, and to pay Him homage. Why? Why would God want this? Why would God care?
And Sunday School All Week continues here tomorrow.
(The above has been adapted for this blog from What God Wants, published by Atria Books.)