In several memorable scenes throughout the Gospels, Jesus asked people to participate with him in the work he was doing, even though they did not yet understand who he was. He asked wedding servants to fill thirty-gallon pots with water when the wine had run out. He asked a Samaritan woman, in the heat of the day, to give him a drink from a well. He told a lame man to carry his mat, a blind man to go wash clay from his eyes, and mourners to remove a stone from a cave and unwrap the dead man who came out of it.
— The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations, Tyndale, ©2016, p. 178-9
Does God really need a partner?
When it comes to the saving power of God in the world through his son, Jesus, all of that “Would you help me out, please” activity of Jesus begs an interesting question—Does God really need partners?
In his book Missional Communities, Reggie McNeal, says, no.
“So why does God create a partner people? Two reasons seem apparent. The first is that God has a preference for incarnation when it comes to revealing his nature and intention.” Certainly that is evident in Jesus. McNeal goes on to say,
God prefers to work through people when possible. Abraham is blessed to show the world God’s intention for all humanity. His offspring embody the story of God’s redemptive efforts. Then ultimately, God chooses to wrap himself in human flesh in Jesus.
— Missional Communities, Reggie McNeal, Jossey-Bass, © 2011, p.19
Jesus, the ultimate incarnation..and us, more fun
Yet, Jesus, the ultimate incarnation, seems to continue His Father’s pattern, partnering and including, as evidenced above. Perhaps this is because of what McNeal says is God’s second reason for creating partners? “It’s more fun for Him that way” (p. 19).
And, maybe, too, Jesus had bigger things in mind—and still does today—when he asks us to partner with him. For instance, consider the account in John 6 when he feeds the multitude with just morsels of food: this became a “hands on experience of serving together and a significant instructional moment for his disciples, who gained a new understanding of his power and identity” (The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations, p.180).
Regardless as to why, God and Jesus have chosen the way of together and with to accomplish salvation. This way is a “full circle” way.
Eden was designed to be a collaborative environment where Creator and creatures worked together for a common goal. Eden is best understood as a base camp from which the man and woman were to extend God’s garden to encompass the entire earth. They were intended to partner with God as his representatives and agents on the earth. The man and woman were instructed to “rule” over the earth on God’s behalf and cultivate the order, beauty, and abundance of Eden in every corner of creation. . . . This is why God created us, and it is the end to which all of history is marching.
— With, Skye Jethani, Thomas Nelson, ©2011, p. 14-15
So why not serve together?
It’s almost unfathomable that you and I are the medium God still chooses to share the Good News to the world, to remake Eden, to bring the Kingdom to bear on earth. In all our imperfections and failures, we are still his choice for communicating himself to those not yet in relationship with him! Serving together is a powerful way to do that.
Imagine if Christians’ actions shone a bright light, illuminating the beauty of the gospel, sparking curiosity, and opening up the opportunity for the exchange of life-giving words. And what if we invited people who believe differently to join us in serving, and they got the opportunity to see Jesus up close, shining in action through us? They would probably taste the salt and see the light shining, and they would probably want more.
— The 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations, p.182