In Iquique, Chile, at the fishing port you can feed the sea lions seafood scraps as you would feed bread crumbs to pigeons. They swim around the crowded fishing boats bobbing by the docks. Per sea faring legend each boat has a name painted to its side. One of the names caught my eye: EMANUEL. The English translation is Immanuel. We know this to mean “God With Us”.
In today’s polarized generation, rhetoric of tolerance force us to define our differences, identify with our ‘kind’, and put up with all ‘others’. When we hear that one of the names of God is “God With Us” in an unthinking moment we might assume a suffix to that name and read, “God With Us … Not With Them.” We paint God’s name on our particular boat of beliefs, thereby excluding all the clearly defined ‘them’ who are not ‘us’. We do this subconsciously, of course.
But what if “God With Us” actually means “God With ALL of Us”?
As missionaries and international aid workers we enter a new land with purpose. Usually that purpose includes change. Usually the conclusion has been reached that a change is necessary because some aspect of the culture has been found to be, at best, lacking, or, at worst, lumped in the classification of: bad. We then make the jump and connect this ‘bad’ aspect to how we define certain sectors of the population. The natural assumption then becomes that our efforts, our ‘good’ efforts, are so that all of ‘them bad people’ can become like ‘us good people’.
But what if the God who carries the name Immanuel is so great, and so very good, that He is already present with ALL people? Maybe He stepped out of our boat of conditions? Maybe Love Unconditional walks on the waters of ALL cultures and is actively involved in the lives of ALL people everywhere.
If you were not forced to identify the “us” and “them” how would your treatment, or mindset, about the people who live around you change?
What traces of Immanuel have you seen in the people of your host culture?
“13 When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”
14 “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”
At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”
15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.” (Joshua chapter 5, emphasis added)
Maybe it’s time to lay down our weapons, take off our shoes, and let Immanuel show us who He truly is.
Who’s side is God on?
– Angie Washington, missionary living in Bolivia, South America