Growing up, and indeed for many years in adulthood, I learned that God is far removed from humans, that their spheres cannot mingle. God is sovereign, indeed, but reigns from heaven which is in space, somewhere far from earth. I learned too, that only in the after-life can the mortal live with God – when they attain eternal life.
In Revelation 21:3-4, we read the following: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…”
Actually this is the understanding I have now of God; a God who dwells among the living. Christian theology sees Jesus as Immanuel, or “God with us”. But what does it mean, God dwelling among us?
We can understand this God, from Jesus Christ himself who lived among us. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowful. He did all these for love, because God is Love. This Jesus we imitate, taught his followers to love one another.
Human love is deficient. We love and have compassion for those of our family, or those like us, our friends and the like. Often, human love is a reciprocal response. In other words, we often espouse ulterior motivations.
God’s love, on the other hand, is all-encompassing and all-embracing. It has no boundaries. The First Lesson for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Acts 11:1-18) shows the “apostles and the Judean believers” challenging Peter: “Why did you go to gentiles and eat with them?” It is “we” versus “they”. But the story in the text is about God’s inclusiveness. God accepts and loves “them” as much as He accepts and loves “us”..
Thus, in the Gospel Reading (John 13:31-35), Jesus gives his followers a new commandment: “Love one another” in the example he has demonstrated. The new commandment asks us to embrace everyone rather than only those closest to us. Embrace those we would label: “them”, those who are different from us, those who are not “one of us”.
When that happens, then we comfort one another in times of sorrow. We care for the weak among us and the needy. We mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. We don’t see strangers as “them”; they are just “some of us”.
That is how God dwells among us.