When with people are you really all there? Or, have you emotionally and mentally checked out? There in body only? Better question – Are you there spiritually or have you checked out at that level as well. Many believers are there but not really there. There are many reasons for this – busy, exhausted, lack of interest, just being politically correct so in attendance… You are, as a believer AWOL – Absent Without Official Leave … Jesus did not say you could simply “check out.”
Jesus is “God with us” and ‘with’ was a key word in His life and ministry. He was with His disciples; He was with the Father in His early morning prayer time; He was with Martha and Mary after their brother died; He was with the multitudes on the sea shore teaching, healing, and touching their lives with the love and power of His heavenly Father. He is “God with us.”
He did not come to teach sterile truth but to allow others to experience what He was experiencing … His disciples were with Him and began, right from the start to experience what He was experiencing. Their ministry-team life was a complex expression of the “with-Me principle.”
Jesus wanted His disciples to experience the reality He knew; he did not want to pass along the conclusions of His experiences. In the deepest moment it was not a sharing of belief and theology but an introduction to Abba. If Abba is met, shared beliefs can then follow as they walk together with Abba. All knowledge must be realized. Realized knowledge changes perception and overflows into actions. And, changes lives – starting with you! Being “with others” is the only way to “realize knowledge.”
The Christian faith cannot be worked out alone. Truth cannot be grasped without relationships. Neither can it be applied if you are not in relationship with others. It can be learned academically (head knowledge) but cannot be applied or made to become living truth unless worked out within accountable and loving relationships – the “with-Me principle” in a wider application.
You see – the incarnation is with-ness stuff. To witness to others the truths we have learned and applied we need to practice with-ness – to be with them. Witness requires with-ness. And, for most Christians that seems to be a difficult proposition – to be with others who do not believe in Jesus and to open oneself to be a part of their lives and let them be an active part of your life (with-ness).
Maybe we fear open and raw honesty – as that is what you will find in the world (and seldom in the Church). Maybe we fear others coming to know us on more than a surface level – because we have not taken the time to get to know ourselves in any really adequate way. Maybe we fear rejection. Not sure why we fear this “with-ness” but apparently we do.
But, if you will just take a small step into this exciting journey – you will find that it is not near as hard nor as difficult as you may think. People are hungry for meaningful relationships. People want to talk about more than the weather and sports – surface nonsense that passes for conversation these days. And, everywhere you go there are coffee bars and coffee shops open 24 hours a day to enable the building of “with-ness” that will result in meaningful and healthy relationships and opportunities o share the Gospel of love with them. People want substance and depth and we have both to offer – but first, before we can witness, we must first develop withness.