Monday, 13 June 2011

Living out the Incarnation

John 1 tells us of the Logos, the Word, through whom all things were made, life Himself… then it takes a twist - the Word became flesh and dwelt among us! The incarnation of Jesus is one of the most beautiful and mysterious beliefs of the Christian Church. It messes with our view of how an all powerful Being should act (a god that lowered itself, took on limitation, suffered at the hands of its own creation!?!?!)

The incarnation is an incredibly disturbing concept, disturbing in the most positive sense of the word. As opposed to the picture below which not only falls a little short of a helpful interpretation of Logos but is disturbing enough in the most negative sense of the word. (I have been a little unnerved in the presence of books lately fearing they're going to make a move on me.)

But letter covered predators aside, what can the Incarnation mean for our practice as Christians? The repercussions of how followers of the Incarnate God should live are equally unsettling… and inspiring. What is our response to the radical action of God? How as communities do we live in light of His becoming one of us?

First, we should acknowledge that Christian praxis (how we practice or live) is always messy, contextual and falls well short of the clean and clear cut world of ideas. But this doesn’t mean that throwing around ideas is pointless, just limited. I have always found that a helpful framework is the concept of trajectory... the most helpful question could be ‘In which direction does the incarnation point us?’ Where does it lead us? To whom and at what cost?

Without getting too specific or attempting to make concrete definitions of somewhat controversial words such as ‘need’, ‘poor’ ‘broken’, (just trying to keep this a blog post, not a thesis) the broad trajectory of the incarnation is downwards! Obviously, and very importantly ‘downwards’ is not a reference to value but to advantage. Jesus calls us not to create communities wallowing in the blessed glory of our own loveliness post-Christ but communities that act out His story, enter dark places to shed His light and refuse to grasp status (Phil 2) but instead continue to offer ourselves to ‘flesh out’ the gospel.

The concept of the trajectory of incarnation allows some space for some of the variables (context, calling, season, available resource, present needs of others, community) without denying that there should be a recognisable shape to our Christian practice – that we use any advantage we have been given to bring wholeness to the brokenness of others.

Communities of Incarnation enter the stories of others that they have no cultural obligation to and are willing to suffer with, on behalf of and sometimes at the hands of others in need. To me one of the most difficult but important implications of ‘living incarnationally’ is that it implies going beyond simply giving from a distance, instead calling us to enter the worlds of a people and share in their story. Giving money or segments of time are one thing… living out the nitty gritty alongside others is another thing altogether.

Anyways, this post is long enough already… I’ll throw around some risks and opportunities in a future post



  1. So good to hear (read?) your voice Shane! Good thoughts, much to think on...

  2. Loving it bro! Good work. And as someone who's deep in Philippians 2, this resonates so well with what Paul says there.


    s D.

  3. Finaly... A post that i can read and dont need to be a Encyclopaedia to understand!
    good challange! thanks shane,

    look forward to more


  4. Hannah McAuley14 June 2011 at 11:06

    Great post Shane, i knew it was you writing bc i love your humour and your style!!
    What a challenge to be involved and active in the stories of those 'downwards' and not just giving one-off hand outs or hang outs that make us feel good about ourselves.
    Can't wait for the next post :) Han

  5. This post just made me laugh out loud on my work shuttle bus. Thanks Shane, loved the thoughts and the public embarrassment!