Dec 202020 0 Responses

God With Us, Not Them

“And they shall call his name Immanuel (which means God with us).” With those words, Matthew the gospel writer reveals a great hope of Christmas. While the Greek mythologies talked about the gods against us and our founding fathers often described a God separated from us, the Bible proclaims that God is with us.

Wherever we are, whatever we’ve done, we have access to God because of the gift of Jesus.

Yet many hear the truth of the Gospel, and misunderstand it. Rather than standing in amazement at the depth of God’s love, they presume they are worthy of a relationship with God. (See: When Christmas Goes Wrong)

God With Us? Of Course.

The Pharisees would’ve had no problem hearing the message “God with us.” Of course they would think, “Why wouldn’t God be with us? Clearly he’s not with them, obviously he would be with us.”

They would assume they deserve God’s love and His presence. Who else would God be with other than us? For the Pharisees, God with us was viewed through a sense of entitlement. They believed they deserved God’s love more than others.

This entitlement would empower judgment. If God is with us and we deserve God’s love, our job becomes to simply define the us. We get to choose who is part of us and who is not. Of course, if you are not one of us, then you are one of them. And God is not with them.

For the Pharisees, life consisted of a continual judgment of deeming people unworthy of God’s love. Consider the power they believed they had–to determine whether or not people had access to God or not.

God With Us. Really?

The disciples heard this news in a different way. Rather than having a sense of entitlement for God’s love, they were amazed that God would be among them. God with us? Are you sure? Knowing who we are, we can’t imagine why God would be with us. Shouldn’t God be with them?

As the disciples recognized the messiness of who they were, they were amazed that God would choose to be with them. Rather than feeling a sense of entitlement, the disciples would feel gratitude. Overwhelmed by God’s kindness to dwell with them, they would be grateful for God’s promise.

This gratitude would express itself in compassion and service. Knowing we are unworthy of God’s love, we see others as equally unworthy. But if God loves us, He loves them as well. If He desires to be with us; He desires to be with them as well. (See: What Makes a Little Boy Cry)

While the Pharisees would continually judge others as outside of God’s love, the disciples would continually expand the possibility of who “us” is. They would always see others as having access to God. Their compassion would lead to service. Because God has served them, the would seek to serve others.

How Do You Hear It?

Entitlement or gratitude. When you hear the Christmas promise that God is with us, which becomes the frame through which that promise is understood? Entitlement produces judgment which continually narrows who the “us” is. Gratitude produces compassion which continually expands the possibility of who could be included in the “us.”

Sadly, some still hear the promise through the lens of religion. Assuming they are worthy of God’s love, they are quick to assume others are not. Thankfully, we can hear God’s truth with grateful ears. Knowing we are never worthy of God, we can stand amazed at His willingness to come to us.

The former leads to bitterness; the latter to joy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Please enter your name, email and a comment.