“I need you” are three words that link us together. But they can carry different meanings. One as a simple call for help in moving a table. Another may be more profound, as in an employer’s invitation for us to accept a job. Or, for another, a heart-to-heart marriage proposal.
Context is everything.
Let’s consider, then, the meaning of these words on Christmas day. When followers of Jesus celebrate his coming to Bethlehem. How do these three words fit this context? Does Jesus need us? Or do we need him?
Two broad Bible realities jump to mind as context for any of us who follow Jesus.
First is his role as our creator, as in John 1:3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” So we need him for our very existence.
Second is Jesus’ practical invitation in John 15:5, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” So we find real meaning in his vision for our life. Paul said this, too, in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Now, let’s reverse things and go back to the counter-question. Does Jesus need us?
This, of course, sounds like blasphemy to a doctrinally tuned Christian ear. He, as creator, made us and he alone moves us. He acts; and we, in turn, act. Not the other way round, or he would be less than God. His immutability is upheld in every moment of life.
Okay, but what if the context for this question is the eternal conversation of the Trinity? Who lives beyond our conception of time and space? As is in another word from Paul, in Ephesians 1:3,4—“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
It seems the Father, with the Son, were busy in our creation design even before time began! And the same notion is expressed in Psalm 139:16, “… in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
This doesn’t suggest that Jesus, with the Father and Spirit, “need” us in order to be divine. His place as God isn’t blocked as we, within his creative purposes, emerge through time. Yet within his lovingkindness our place in his plan is somehow “needed” as his creativity unfolds.
God’s love in Christ, in other words, gives form, meaning, and value to creation. He is the Artist and we are the art—inseparably together. We reveal his eternal love in time. Just as we display his jealousy if and when we despise his love—as the Spirit says in Psalm 2. God refuses to let us spoil his love. And all this will culminate when believers share in his eternal glorious life!
So, may this be a “Merry Christmas” to all who know and love him. We need him because he made us to live forever in the relational reality of his mutual love. Let’s rejoice accordingly!