Pastor Lawrence Lottatalk finished his rousing sermon with a whirlwind summation as the onlookers beamed with amazement and thanksgiving that they are privileged to sit, week after week, at the feet of such a brilliant orator. Following the service, Pastor Lottatalk stood by the exit so he could shake hands and greet his parishioners on their way out.
Grasping the pastor’s hand with great enthusiasm, sister Bessie Blather gushed, “Oh, Pastor Lawrence, that sermon today was wonderful! Just wonderful!” Sporting his patented, sheepish grin of humility, Pastor Lottatalk said, “Well, Bessie, you know I just wanna be used by God.”
I am stating, publicly, for the record, I do not want to be used by God, and I believe this is yet another misguided phrase from our “Christianese” language base that the body of Christ needs to jettison.
Time Warp – 1975
In 1975 I was entering my freshman year of high school. There is something about crossing this threshold from middle to high school, that results in a serious change to guy/girl relationships. Prior to crossing the border into Freshmandom, we were in middle school and elementary school, where “romance” consisted of peeks and giggles, blushing cheeks because you were caught looking, and the passing of notes asking, “Do you like me? Yes/No.”
But now we are in high school, and the relationships have become more calculated and strategic. No more giggles and blushing. Now we “date” and we project our “cool” to others. We see where we fall in the pecking order based on who will, or will not ally with us.
As the couples pair off, onlookers must, of course, whisper about the relationships. There is analysis to perform regarding who is with whom, and why they are together. We must discern why X no longer associates with their former friend Y, and we even do strategic breakdowns of the underlying structure of the relationships.
And inevitably, we hear it – that phrase – “Oh, you know she’s just using him,” or “He’s just using her.” This phrase is never uttered in a positive context.
Most often the “using” statement refers to some hormone-enraged boy who was said to be “using” some girl to selfishly satisfy his physical drives. She was considered weak for allowing it, and he a heartless cad for pressing her into it.
Used By God vs Serving God
I understand the “Use me” phrase is frequently said or sung with a sincere desire for our lives to have a kingdom impact, that we want to ensure our lives count for something beyond our meager existence. We want to appear submissive and obedient – “Oh, I just wanna be used by God, you know.” But this is a phrase that, over time, has made my skin crawl.
I am persuaded that, in God’s eyes, we are not mere cogs functioning in God’s kingdom machine, but rather we are men and women subjects in a kingdom, subjects who have a special relationship with the king. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:15a, ESV).
Jesus actively pursues this relationship with us. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20, ESV). He knocks to be with us, not to use us. That is the meaning behind Immanuel – God with us.
Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’ – John 14:23, ESV
That does not sound like God using me. That sounds like God loving me and wanting to be with me.
Even better, we are adopted as family, with Jesus as our brother. We cry out “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. – John 1:11-12, ESV
I don’t “use” my children. I don’t “use” my wife. I don’t “use” my friends, or my church family, or my siblings, or my grandchildren.
No. I “relate” to each of these people in a way that is appropriate to that relational context. I enjoy relationship with them.
God is not a user. He is a loving Father, a selfless brother, an indwelling, comforting Spirit.
We are not doormats or puppets. We are children of the King, joint-heirs with the Son. We are beloved and chosen.
Brothers and sisters, let’s offload this phrase, “I just wanna be used by God,” and replace it with a far better phrase, “I so much enjoy being loved by God.”