Pastor Jeff Knott of Grace Church in Port Hope, Ontario continues the Advent season with “The Difference Between For and With”:
To do something for someone really amounts to an exchange where the person who is giving gets to feel good or gets to feeling pretty frustrated about doing something, but it leaves the person, it leaves the place unchanged.
The whole approach really sees the person as a problem to solve. They have a need and we think of ourselves as the answer. We have the goods, so we give them the goods and somehow they are fixed and helped. But it actually doesn’t work.
A lot of our charity, a lot of our good work is characterized by this idea of “for” – to do “for” someone. Some of our helping actually harms.
No decent Christian, or no decent human being for that matter, would knowingly offer someone something they thought would harm them –you wouldn’t do it. But that’s the danger of doing “for”, working “for”, being “for”– you don’t actually know them. You don’t have to care about them. You can do it without knowing their name.
Christmas is a time to focus on the Truth. We can rejoice that God is for us and does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
“For” is not the way the coming of Jesus is described in the nativity story, it’s described in a different way. Emmanuel – God with us. The posture of being “with” is profoundly different.
When we consider what God is doing at Christmas time, what the God of eternity and the God who took on flesh; when He was found in the likeness of humanity and became like us, it was all done in the service to be “with”us.
God Himself came to be “with” us, not just simply to do “for” us, but to be “with” us.
Can I trust a God who doesn’t actually know me? Are we really just following a set of ideals and a notion or are we actually with Someone for all eternity?
Jesus entered fully into the human condition. The uncreated God actually knows what it’s like to be a creature like us.
“With” describes what God is in His Person. The life of the Father, Son and Spirit is this perfect expression of “with”. They are so much with One together that the Three are One.
“With” is the reason behind creation. Needing nothing, God creates everything as an outflow of His love. He says, “Our love is so generous we need to share it with others, others need to be included.” So He births humanity and He births the world through His spoken Word. Everything was made was made to be in relationship with Him.
The cross and the resurrection is not sin management. The whole point of the cross and resurrections was reconciliation to bring us to a place of “with” so that we could be with God forever and we could enjoy His presence.
God’s desire for all His activity is to bring us together in Him, to be with Him so that He is with us. It’s the goal of Christmas, it’s the truth of Christmas.
When we made “for” the centre of our understanding, the fundamental human problem is our limitation. All we really need to get above our struggles is a little bit of help. This is the way most charities work.
But what if our limitation is not our issue? What if the most fundamental human predicament is our isolation; our disconnect from the true source of love, from the true source of life? Doing “for” cannot solve that, it may even contribute to isolation – but “with” can. “With” solves the problem of isolation because now you’re not alone, you’re together with Someone.And Someone whose love is never ending. That’s the wonder of Christmas – God with us, where God proves in a tangible way that He’s not located outside our predicament, but He’s joined us in the midst of it. He comes alongside us to show us the way. After all, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Advent reminds us that we are never alone in our aloneness. We have One that sticks closer than a brother – Emmanuel, God “with” us.