Over the weekend my Dad pointed me to an article by Sara Miles on the most important word in the Bible. You might think the word is ‘Grace,’ or ‘Love,’ or ‘Jesus,’ but Miles argues that the word is ‘with.’ As in, Emmanuel, God with us. Or, ‘The Lord be with you,’ ‘And also with you.’ John’s Gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…And the Word became flesh and lived among (with) us.”
Trinitarian theologians believe that the ‘with’ is so important God even lives in relationship with God’s self. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one, joined in dance by their relationships to each other. To clarify, think of it in terms of the roles that each human being plays and how they relate to one another. I am a husband, a son, and a neighbor. They are all separate roles, but each are intimately related, and what I do as a husband affects who I am as a son, even though I may act very differently depending on what role I am playing. I am, of course, still one human being, just as God is still one God, but made up of three persons. And God loves the world so much that God is constantly calling us to be in relationship with God and with each other.
The implications of God being with us and telling us to be with each other can be a little unsettling. Sometimes we’d rather do things for people than with them. I, for instance, like to take something of a birds-eye view of society, looking at the big picture and then advocating for change. I am, in fact, such a data hound that even my cat is enraptured by a good spreadsheet:
Now, there’s nothing wrong with using analysis to try to make the world a better place, but it’s not enough. After all, God certainly can look at the big picture in ways none of us can match, and yet God was not content to stop there. Instead, God took on flesh and became incarnate, came to live with us. This is the challenge of the incarnation, that we must live with each other.
I must confess that I am not always good at being with. Even when I do stop and listen, I usually instantly move on to brainstorming solution, because solutions are easier and less painful than taking the time to live with the problem. Being with is risky, because if I am truly living with you it might change me, as any actual relationship inevitably does. This, then is my challenge for the week, to try to find a way to live with, and not just for the poor. I invite you to join me, and I also invite you to share any stories and suggestions of ways you overcame your fear and managed to live with other human beings and with God.