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The Incarnation Means You Are Included

The First Letter of John was written for many reasons.  John states three of those reasons in the text.  He says he wrote to satisfy his joy (1:4), to warn his readers not to fall into the traps of sin (2:1), and to assure them that as true believers they possessed the gift of eternal life (5:13).  Despite these declarations, however,  there are other factors that prompted John to author this essay.  Chief among them would be John’s desire to warn his readers about the false teachings of the Gnostics who accepted Christ’s divinity and yet rejected his humanity.  Put another way, the Gnostics denied the incarnation.  John writes in defense of the incarnation.  In fact, he declares it to be the very foundation of our relationship with God and with one another (1 John 1:1-3).

No doubt conversation about the incarnation will be a common topic of conversation over the next several week.  That “the word become flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) is the central proclamation of the upcoming Christmas season. 

Despite this fact, I believe that a form of Gnosticism is still becoming prevalent in many of our churches.  Many of us so magnifies the divinity of Jesus that we are in danger of loosing touch with his humanity.  This Gnosticism passes itself off as worship and holiness—as some sort of enlightened spirituality.  In reality, however, it is ethereal darkness because it divorces spirituality from ethics—something John clearly rejects (I John 1:7, 9-10, 2:4-6, 8-11).

Put another way, since the Jesus to whom we relate as Lord is a human being—our relationship with other human beings should be influenced by our relationship with Him.  Our hearts may be enlightened by Christ’s divinity, but our lifestyle must be enlightened by his humanity.  John says, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother or sister is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him” (1 John 2:9-11).

Are your relationships with fellow human beings being enlightened by your relationship with Jesus Christ?  Are you willing to accept into your heart and fellowship people of another race, color, creed, or national origin—just like the Jesus accepted Gentiles and Samaritans?  Are you able to genuinely offer grace to people whose lifestyles are sinful—just as Jesus offered grace to the woman caught in adultery?   Are you willing to reach out and touch victims of AIDS with loving and compassionate ministry—just like Jesus reached out, touched, and ministered to those afflicted with leprosy?  If Jesus Christ is God incarnate in human flesh, that means that our ministry must incarnate his grace to those with whom we come in contact.  So, do people feel kept at arms length by your life, or do they sense through you that they are included by God.

Many years ago I attended a denominational meeting in another state.  I sat and viewed a report about the various ministries of our state convention.  The video presentation featured several different forms of service including outreach to those in prison and ministry to those who are poor.  The closing frames of the video contained the images of an African-American choir singing praises to God. 

Following the presentation, the Executive Director of the denomination commented about the ministries portrayed on the video saying, “If you don’t think that’s the work of the kingdom—if that report doesn’t move your heart—then something must be wrong with you!”  A group of five individuals sat behind me.  At this point they got up and left the assembly.  As they left, one of them muttered, “Then I guess there must be something wrong with me!”   

I don’t know what aspect of the video prompted them to leave or make this statement.  I am sure of one thing!  John—the guy who wrote this biblical passage—would agree.  Something is wrong with this person.  They are still choosing to live in the darkness.  They need to step into the light of the human Christ.  “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.”  If the man who made that statement ever reads this blog, I’m praying for you!  I want you to know that you are included in the grace of God – but you are not going to fully experience that as long as you are excluding others.

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2 Responses to “The Incarnation Means You Are Included”

  1. paul donnan says:

    Another insightful article from a highly intelligent man of God who humbly presents Jesus in a way people can embrace Him. Thanks Bill!

  2. ‘So, do people feel kept at arms length by your life, or do they sense through you that they are included by God.’

    This comment made my day Bill – thanks for another great read! 🙂

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