On Dependence: Part 3, A Liberating Dependence

One last observation about dependence from Rowan Williams' essay "On Being Creatures."

To come quickly to the point, grace is a liberating dependence, a dependence that frees us. Again, what we need, in order to be freed from the cycles of human dependency, is what Williams calls "limitless dependence," a dependency that does not depend upon us. Williams calls this "fundamental dependence." Fundamental dependence allows us to lean into our neediness, to reject the lie of self-sufficiency, through a relationship that does not distort us, because God needs nothing from us to be Himself. 

And yet, our view of God can become distorted. We can come to believe that God "needs" us to jump through all sorts of moral hoops. And such notions come to warp our relations with others. That is, instead of grace making us radically available to each other, God's perceived "neediness" demands sacrifices of time, attention, and energy that pull me away from others, away from my network of human love and care.

Phrased differently, a demanding, needy God becomes relational competition. God or my friends? God or my family? God or the world? God or myself? A needy God is a competitive God, demanding that resources be withdrawn from others and devoted toward Him. 

You can see something like this at work in in Jesus' criticism of the Pharisees in the gospels, where he pointed out how they were shifting material resources away from the care of their parents in order to give that money to God. To be sure, I don't think the Pharisees would say that God "needed" the money more their than elderly parents did, but God is definitely a relational competitor in the choices being made, exerting a relational pull that Jesus felt was distorting.

The point to be observed here is that grace, being grace, demands no return. Can't be returned. Shouldn't be returned. And that whenever we turn grace into an "exchange," God becomes relational competition in the economy of our loves. This is what makes religious legalism and works-based systems of righteousness so morally toxic, how it makes God "needy," a demanding competitor for my love, care and attention. Whenever you see religious people harming others this "needy" God is at work, a vacuum sucking love and affection out of our lives and the world.

Grace, however, exists to set us free. Needing nothing from us, God becomes unconditional support in our efforts to love each other. Through a Love that gives and gives, needing nothing in return, we are liberated to love each other fully. No holding back.

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