The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
John 1:14 (The Message)
I didn't get a single minute of sleep last night. I can blame it on caffeine, I can blame it on getting too much rest on Wednesday while I was sick, but the truth is...I was up because I couldn't get the image of Jesus moving into the neighborhood (the incarnation) out of my head. I was shook up by these words...
The cross of Christ is both the symbol of our atonement and the pattern of our discipleship. Today, many who name the name of Christ have removed themselves from human hurt and suffering to places of relative comfort and safety. Many have sought to protect themselves and their families from the poor masses for whom Christ showed primary concern. In affluent societies, our approach to social problems is to decrease their visibility. The migration patters of Christians and their churches have again reflected the dominant social practice. The church’s compassionless inactivity stems from being removed and out of touch with the suffering of the poor and exploited. This modern isolation from human hurt is a major obstacle to being faithful to biblical mandates. How can we open our hearts and lives to those whom we have hardly ever see, let alone ever known?
The biblical idea of love carries with it the deliberate extension of ourselves to others. The incarnation, the supreme act of God’s love, required the intentional plunge of the Lord of Glory into the chaotic, violent, and rebellious human situation at tremendous cost (Phil. 2:6-11). But this act brought the salvation of the world. We cannot profess the name of Jesus without seeking to incarnate his pattern of self-emptying love and servanthood. Again, this is not only an individual effort but a corporate one undertaken by a body of people who have given themselves over to Christ and his kingdom, to each other, and to serving in the midst of the broken world for which he died…
…The Gospel knows nothing of what sociologists call “upward mobility.” In fact, the gospel of Jesus Christ call us to the reverse; the gospel calls us to a downward pilgrimage. Former attachments and securities in the false values of wealth and power are left behind as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to seek first the kingdom. From an obscure birth in a dirty animal stable to the crucifixion of a poor suffering servant who never had a place to lay his head, the gospel witnesses to God’s identification with the poor and powerless. Such a life of identification will bring rejection from the world, and if one becomes too prominent, one might even be crucified. We may measure our obedience to the gospel by the degree of tension and conflict with the world that is present in our lives. If our lives are secure, comfortable, and at home with wealth and power, we belong to the world rather than to Christ.
Our downward pilgrimage will drive us to community and is meant to take place in the context of a common shared life. The life of the early Christian fellowships, as seen in the Book of Acts and elsewhere in Scripture, presents the Christian life as a common life, the life of a people more than the life of individuals. Here were the ones who had known Jesus, had walked with him, talked with him, listened to him, and lived with him for three years. They had seen him live and die and rise again from the dead. They were eyewitnesses to the gospel. They had both followed him and forsaken him. Their lives had been decisively and irrevocably changed by him. He had set their feet upon a new path, and they would never be the same again…
If I'm going to follow Jesus, I'm never going to be the same again. Let the downward pilgrimage begin - for the sake of the kingdom and broken world for which Christ died.