Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Incarnational Christianity

Jesus, in order to save us, became one of us. That is the essential truth of the Incarnation and at the heart of the Gospel. Of course Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead and sent His Holy Spirit but all of this started when God took on flesh and walked among us. Everything else flows from this. This is why, I believe, John in His Gospel starts with this and underlines its powerful truth in those wonderful words of his in John 1:14

"And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth."

If Jesus had not become one of us, identifying with us in every way - except without sin - then he would not have been able to save us. "For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved." (St. Gregory Nazianzus Epistle 101).

The image I get when reading the gospels is of a man (mankind) in a dark, dirty hole in the ground. He is too weak to climb up and out of the hole and so he cries out for help. Someone hears his call and climbs down into the hole, binds up his wounds and lifts him out into the sunshine. That is a picture of the incarnation. The rescuer coming alongside - rather than reaching down - to save the man and help him up.

Jesus' incarnation is, I believe, a model for us to follow when we think of rescue or evangelism. It is coming alongside people, identifying with them, joining them, and then helping them to God. But how many of our evangelistic models seem to keep a distance between us and those we are trying to reach. It is evangelism at arms length, the complete opposite to the Jesus model. It is only as we come alongside people, "walk a mile in their moccasins" - as the saying goes - that we can effectively reach them for Christ. The incarnation is our model and the Anglican Church which I belong to is pretty good at going some way along the road to working that out. All it needs to remember is that the Good News isn't just about good works and acts of kindness - although they are important - but sharing the message of God's love through Jesus. Put those two together and you have evangelism as Jesus intended.

The story which kind of sums this up is the story of the Good Samaritan in which the Samaritan in the Christ-like figure who does not pass by on the other side but crosses, binds up the wounds of the man left at the side of the road, and then carries him to the Inn.

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