There is a difference between doing something to someone, doing something for someone, and doing something with someone. In some eyes, to do something to someone means that one is seemingly forced to do something. To do something for someone could mean that one person has an ability or a viewpoint that another person needs and can help by doing something for them. To do something with someone is the clearest picture of what true Christian living is all about. It is here we precisely find the intent and reality of the incarnation of Jesus.
What do you think when you hear someone doing something to someone else? I think of one person who is in control over another. Perhaps we think that someone may not know how to fix himself or the situation, so for one’s own good we take it on ourselves and do something to that person and we will be thanked later. We think we know what someone needs. Many take on this role in life, yet it is not Christ-like in its deepest motives. Rather, it places one person over another and forces something another person has every bit of will and ability to decide for himself.
Another idea is that we need to do something for others. We sing about it. Our prayers talk about others we need to do things for. There are board meetings when phrases like: “We need do emphasize this program for the good of our community.” It sounds good and heartfelt, and it gets closer to the intent of how Jesus would look at people and communities. After all, he gave his life for the forgiveness of all who will believe.
However, it can be almost as bad as doing something to people or communities if we think we are more elite, privileged, or wiser than “those poor souls.” Doing something “for” someone with a misguided motive causes us to look down on others whom Jesus also gave his life for. It can bring about the well-known “Holier than thou” attitude. We need to be careful with why we might do something “for” someone else. If we are doing it because we think we are superior, we need to get on our knees and ask God to forgive our sin of elitism and haughtiness.
Jesus came to be with us. While I suppose many could argue with me on what it means to do something to or for someone, my prayer is that we would be united on the truth of Emmanuel. We celebrate it every December, but it is a lifestyle worthy of living every day. God is truly with us. He came to “pitch his tent” in our camp. He came to go through life with us. He knows what it means to live what some call an everyday life. He knows what it means to be tempted. Jesus lived worst-case rejection and betrayal.
For you who are alone today and feel no one is with you, Jesus knows and because of who he is, his presence is with you. Because of this, may we commit to being with him. And because we are with him, both today and eternally, may we choose to be with as many as possible. May we listen better, be more sensitive to others’ needs, and believe in someone today. There is someone worth taking a risk on for heaven’s sake today. Who lives in your community? Who is your neighbor? Are there strangers around you? Ask God for his help and commit to go through life with others for the gospel cause.
Jim Dunn is executive director of Church Multiplication & Discipleship for The Wesleyan Church.