Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Word Became Flesh

I have been thinking about that phrase a lot lately. I have been thinking about it in a way that I honestly believe will change everything if I am not careful. But first, let's play with an idea for a second:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' but nothing happened and it was still dark."

"know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and memorize his commands . . . Therefore, take care to memorize the commands, decrees and laws I give you today."

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Boil it down into propositions that can be easily learned and repeated."

"This is love for God: To remember his commands."

"The Word became text and dwelt in our books and in our statements of faith."

You are correct in noticing that something is not right. Something is VERY not right. Because in Genesis, God speaks into darkness there is light. In Deuteronomy, God keeps his covenant with those who love him and obey his commandments. In James we are deceived when we listen to it but fail to do what it says.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

It gets me thinking. Is it possible that all along, God's words and the Word were always supposed to become flesh? Were they always supposed to be lived out in blood and bones and skin people?

Am I going too far to say that the ideas and truths that Christianity tells are worthless if they never become flesh? Think about this for a second: (this is not my idea, but it really got me thinking so I am just passing it along) If a biologist or a physicist or an engineer or a computer scientist has a significant moral failure, does it discredit their work? If Isaac Newton was shown to be a drunken womanizer, would you think that his second law was a silly outdated rule? If Stephen Hawking, through his awesome and kind of creepy electronic voice emulator said a racial slur, would it take away from his theories on the universe? Well, no, it wouldn't.

How many students at OSU would want to hear the Gospel if they found out that I got another student pregnant? If I spent all my money "pimping my ride?" If I was addicted to alcohol? Nobody would! In fact, even when I find my life is normal with no huge failures, the Gospel STILL doesn't seem that powerful. I think that is because the Gospel isn't normal, it is revolutionary.

I can yell from the mountain tops until I am blue in the face, "GOD LOVES YOU!" I can whisper to every single person I cross paths with that there is a God who sent his son to die for them. And if I lose my voice, I can hold up a sign for all to see. But none of those will ever be as powerful as someone living like it is true.

Mother Theresa picking a sick man off the road in Calcutta and allowing him to die with dignity.

Spending the day in a orphanage simply holding babies because no one else will.

Taking a few afternoons a week to mentor and befriend an at-risk youth.

Submitting to the leadership of someone who most of the time has no power.

Inviting the new kid over to play.

Giving that guy a ride to the social security office.

Who are you going to believe? The guy with the sign, or the couple who cooked you dinner when you were sick?

The Word must ALWAYS become flesh.

I think we have put a little too much faith in propositional truths. "Jesus my Lord and Savior." "The Bible is the inspired word of God." And if I may be so bold, "Homosexuality is wrong."

There is a time and a place for propositions. They can be good things to hold on to when we begin to lose our way. But I think that a truth about God or Jesus or Scripture or spirituality is only as good (and as true?) as the amount that it is made flesh in you, in us.

So we say that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. That proposition is nothing unless it becomes flesh. Do we submit to him the way that the Romans submitted to Caesar? That is what it means to call someone "Lord." You do what they say. Do we look to him to save us from the things that are destroying us or do we run to those very things? Do we look to our money, our success, our girlfriend or boyfriend, ourselves, our possessions? Why should anyone believe us if we don't? if they can't see it in us?

The Bible is the inspired word of God? Really? Do we study it? Do we mine the depths of Scripture to find the invaluable treasures contained therein? Do we tenaciously search them? Shoot, have we read the whole thing? (I haven't)Or are we content to cling to a few passages and verses that give us comfort? Are we satisfied with what we know and feel no need to put things in their immediate and big picture context?

Do we do what it says?

Do we forgive like our own forgiveness depends on it? (it does) Do we actually love the poor and let justice roll down like waters? How hard do we try to be the light of the world?

If homosexuality is so bad, and if allowing gay people to get married is such a huge threat to the sanctity of marriage, then why aren't our relationships and marriages the greatest thing the world has ever seen? Wouldn't the best case for "traditional marriage" (whatever we mean by that. Arranged? Polygamy?) be to have an amazing marriage?

Because the Word must always become flesh.

It is easy to hide behind a proposition. It is harder to live it out. Especially if the word becoming flesh takes you where you are uncomfortable, where your preconceived ideas don't hold up to the reality of what you are seeing and experiencing. If humility and service does not come easily to us. If we don't like how homeless people smell. If loud black men make us uncomfortable and intimidated. If we don't understand the language or the culture. If it is not the way we were brought up. If your dad was an evil man. If I am addicted to this thing.

If propositions are enough, then why did God not just send us a list? A 12-point propositional treatise explaining what humanity should believe in order to be saved. He didn't. He sent Jesus. A human being. A person.

Jesus was not and is not a proposition. And neither are we. We are people. We are flesh and blood. How could we possibly think that the world will be changed with words? They are powerful. But they are only powerful if we do something with them.

Because the Word must always become flesh.

I am putting on a retreat for college students before this new school year starts. I am hoping to do it in town so that I can be near to the campus. This is good for a number of reasons. I also don't have a lot of money to fork over to pay for a retreat so I decide to send an email to about 10 churches in town asking if they will let us use their building for the retreat. 3 respond. 1 says they can't and I appreciate them letting me know. Another has space, but they are going to charge us what could end up being quite a bit of money to do it, and they guy who knows how much never gets back to me. But then the third church says they are interested. I go over to said church (Crossroads Christian Fellowship in Corvallis) and talk with the pastor. He tells me that the Church has a heart for being beneficial to the larger community and not just the people in the church. So they would love to partner with a campus ministry. He tells me that we will basically have the whole church to ourselves for the retreat. He will give us a key. He will give us access to the office so we can make and print fliers. He will let us be in the sanctuary and we can move the chairs around to play games in there. He says that we are welcome to use the church anytime we want.

And you know what that does to me? It makes me feel like there is hope. The Church (universal) can be the light of the world. Churches (local) are not always consumed with their own programs and too busy to be a blessing to their community. Maybe this Gospel I preach is real. Maybe Jesus can transform people. Our ministry is valuable and worth investing in. As are the students at Oregon State.

A church doing what the Church is supposed to do? Woah. That is something.

Because the Word must always become flesh.

And that time, it did.


  1. I am really excited for the students at OSU... this is really great stuff... the Word must become flesh, indeed! And I am so thankful for Crossroads, for churches that respond to the greater community of Christ.
    Good stuff.

  2. Hmmmmmmm . . . way too much to think about and comment on in this space. perhaps an email. later.