posted on: Sep 05, 2013
Make Incarnation Your Model For Loving Well
Annie Dillard tells about some British Explorers in their search for the North Pole in the 1800’s. They knew it would be a two to three year journey, yet each sailing vessel carried only a twelve day supply of coal, each ship made room for 1,200-volume library, a hand organ playing fifty tunes, china place settings for officers and men, cu-glass wine goblets, and sterling silverware flatware. They carried no special clothing for the Arctic except the uniforms of the Queen’s Navy. When the Eskimos came across their frozen remains, the men were all dressed up, pulling a lifeboat full of sterling silver and chocolate.
Sounds foolish, doesn’t it?
However, if we’re not careful our church can become like this crew. We can have some nice frills, relevant teaching, up to date music, a few programs to help you along in life, but we could be so foolish as to miss out on the essential thing.
Paul puts it this way in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
The great Theologian Jonathan Edwards writes one of the greatest descriptions of heaven outside of Scripture….
“Heaven is a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. And therefore the glorious presence of God in heaven fills heaven with love, as the sun, placed in the midst of the visible heavens in a clear day, fills the world with light. The apostle tells us that “God is love”; and therefore, seeing he is an infinite being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love… Deity becomes, as it were, one infinite and unchangeable emotion of love proceeding from both the Father and the Son… And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love.”
This is what the incarnation was about. It was Jesus who existed in the presence of this love from all eternity passed, he left that to enter into our world, fully entering into our world as a person just like us, choosing to limit himself, choosing to humble himself and to become like us.
John 1:14 puts it like this, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."
The Message paraphrase puts it this way, "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes."
It was exactly what we needed, in the exact time that we needed it!
“There is a fantastic story about a four year old girl who awoke one night frightened – convinced that in the darkness around her were all kinds of spooks and monsters. Alone she ran to her parent’s bedroom. Her mother calmed her down and, taking by the hand, led her back to her own room, where she put on a light and reassured the child with these words, “YOU NEEDN’T BE AFRAID, YOU ARE NOT ALONE HERE. GOD IS IN THE ROOM WITH YOU.”
The child replied, “I KNOW THAT GOD IS HERE, BUT I NEED SOMEONE IN THE ROOM WITH SOME SKIN!””
God knows we needed his skin, not simply the knowledge that he is everywhere. People are desperate for “skin” – they are desperate for someone to enter into their world and incarnate with them.
Today, God does have skin, a people empowered by the Holy Spirit to be his BODY on the Earth.
Now of course that’s easier said than done… so let’s break this down some.
MAKING INCARNATION YOUR MODEL FOR LOVE involves THREE things:
1. Entering another’s world
2. Holding on to yourself
3. Hanging between two worlds
This is what Jesus did for us, he entered our world, he walked a mile in our shoes, if you will.
See most discipleship models out there today are based on the “TEACH AND INSTRUCT” model. We need to shift to the “LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND” model.
The TEACH AND INSTRUCT model is aimed at change. To change people’s minds and behaviors, there’s a place for that, but the LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND model is about loving people well.
David Augsburger summed it up this way: “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”
Let me ask you, have you ever felt burdened by something and you were able to talked to someone and they listened and understood and you felt cared for?
Let me flip the script. Have you ever felt misunderstood by someone and that led you to believe they don’t really care about you?
See the incarnational model isn’t going into someone’s world and telling them what to do and when to do it, it’s becoming a learner, listening to them, finding out what’s inside them.
2. Holding On To Yourself
The challenge of entering into someone else’s world is to hold on to ourselves. This is what Jesus did though.
A great example of this would be when Jesus washed the disciples feet. He really entered into their world there…
But we can’t miss the fact that John records this just before Jesus’ washes their feet.
John 13:3, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God”
Jesus never ceased to be God when he took on Human Flesh.
This is the tension of loving people, hearing them, understanding them, entering into their world, but also holding to your God given convictions.
If we fail at this, we can get into co-dependent relationships. We don’t want that. We want people to be dependent on Jesus.
3. Hanging Between Two Worlds
Jesus, again, models this perfectly. He was fully human, suffering and tasting death. And yet, fully God in perfect communion with the Father.
Life would have been much simpler if Jesus just stayed in Heaven. But by entering into our world, he invited sorrow and pain into his life. He was misunderstood, disrespected. He died naked and alone on a cross, LITERALLY HANGING BETWEEN TWO WORLDS.
When we love people, we hang between two worlds… sometimes more than two worlds. But we want to bring the love of heaven into their world, while knowing that there is still a messy reality of living in this broken, shattered world.
We can simply ask this when engaging people…
“What’s it like to be you?” “What’s it like to walk in your skin?”
The guarantee is that when you enter into peoples worlds and love people well, you will be transformed more and more into the image of Jesus.
PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO TAKE THE LISTENING TEST BELOW.
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