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Proximity and Presence

Weekly Devotionals

Proximity and Presence

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Our special guest, Professor John Walton, shared today about “Immanuel Theology.” (I highly recommend catching this on our app if you missed out.) He described God’s ultimate purpose was to dwell among his creation and we find this all throughout the Bible from creation, to His presence in the tabernacle and temple, fulfilled ultimately in Jesus who dwelled among us and also in the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

We often spiritualize God’s presence to mean something ghostly or magical or transcendent. It may be those things as well but first
and foremost I think it’s meant to be something more real, tangible, and human. That’s why it’s so important that the Word literally became flesh and not just metaphorically. Why couldn’t God just save us from heaven? And even if Jesus came, why couldn’t he just die for our sins right away? Why go through 30 years knowing it would end anyways?

At least one answer is that he made deliberate plans to dwell among 12 students and teach them first-hand what it meant to live in
grace and truth. His physical presence mattered to them. He didn’t just teach from afar but communed with them and taught by example. His life and death were the ultimate lessons.

I recently realized just how important physical presence was.
Our family has lived in Korea for 12 years now and we’ve been blessed with a good community of believers. A few years ago, we met a new family who came to Korea, became friends, and they decided to move into our apartment complex knowing that we would be close to them. We’ve had a lot of good friends over those 12 years, many of whom we have said goodbyes to. But there was something objectively different about our new friends.

Over the course of two years, we saw this family 3-4 times a week. Our kids played together, we vacationed together, we had sleepovers, and we ate countless meals together. Many times we would run into each other at the playground or grocery store and a spontaneous dinner just happens. Or we have leftovers so we text them and tell them to come over in 10 minutes. Why? The
main reason is because they were right next door to us. It helps that we get along and our kids are similar age but those are secondary. Nothing beats proximity.

I think that’s how Jesus dwelt with his disciples. Think of all the stories in the Gospels where spontaneous gatherings just happened. We have all these stories because He lived among us. If we really believe that His Spirit now lives within us, then we now have the privilege and responsibility to dwell among other people and love them the way Jesus did. The truth is there’s
no way we can form this community when we only see them once a week for an hour or two on Sunday. The obvious people to love are those closest to us: our families, coworkers, and neighbors.

Sadly, our friends left Korea and we miss them dearly. As short as it was, we were still able to experience true community. It reaffirmed just how important physical presence is to forming rich friendships. I pray that we may find new meaning in Immanuel, God with us and invest our presence in the lives of those around us.