He Became Like Us So That We Might Become Like Him

Incarnation

To become like Christ, we must first recognize that he was God who became like us so we might become like him. He was Lord and became a servant so we might become friends. He was rich and became poor so that we could become rich. He came down so that we might be exalted.

Therefore, to become like Christ is acknowledge that in him we have first received the reality of sharing in his divine nature, the mantle of his authority, and his great riches. It is then from this exalted position in Christ we humble ourselves to lift up others. He became like us so we might become like him.

Why did Jesus have to die?

Atonement, Incarnation

Why did Jesus have to die?

I think this question has become a monumental question in our time because we assume it didn’t have to happen.

I think we ask “why” for the same reason we are still shocked by the reality of death.

We live in denial of our finitude. We live as if we are not beings moving toward death. We accept Jesus’ death only because we can assign it a reason, and we struggle to accept death when we cannot explain why. Yet, if Jesus wasn’t crucified he would have still died, and I don’t think we can handle that. I know this thought has messed up my world the past few days.

Our inability to contemplate death and ‘dying well’ causes great difficulty to the task of living well.

Why did Jesus have to die?

He was born. All created living things are beings moving toward death. No matter the ‘how’ of his eventual death, the fact that he became human means he would die. Thus, the incarnation is the unavoidable answer to the question of his death.

The unavoidable reality of death means the greater question is not “why did he die?” but “how did he live?”

…not “why will we die?”
but “how will we live?”

If we are still curious as to “why he died?” it seems like the more precise question is, “why was he crucified?”

He may have given (or laid down) his life, but this does not mean he committed suicide. He was killed, and the way he lived his life has everything to do with why.

This is how we know love

Biblical Studies

“This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care—how can the love of God remain in him? Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.” 1 John 3:16-18

I love John’s simplicity. However, let us not confuse lack of complexity with ease. Our call is to demonstrate and embody the self-sacrifice love of Jesus.  

“Truth” is not an idea or a doctrine to be believed or argued, but an incarnate reality. “Truth” is synonymous with “action” just as “words” are with “speech.” Thus, we find in John’s writings that the ‘truth of God’ is not an idea or concept put forward, but the person of Jesus who came and lived among his people (e.g. “I am the way, the truth, and the life” John 14:6).

We Are Primal People

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What we make … makes us.

The things we make have a real effect of making us; from laws to malls, from social media to societal structures. The realities we as humans have made begin to mediate the ways in which we interact with and even imagine the world around us. Habits and regular practices shape and reshape our loves and our longings.

Liturgies, whether religious or secular, “shape and constitute our identities by forming our fundamental desires and our most basic attunement to the world. In short, liturgies make us certain kinds of people, and what defines us is what we love.” James K.A. Smith 

*(Smith uses the term ‘liturgy’ to mean habit-forming rituals or cultural practices.)

Who Would Worship Something Man-Made?

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It is easy to mock and look down upon those people and cultures who made physical idols to worship. We wonder, how could they worship something they made with their hands?

Yet in all of our modern civility, we are no different. We worship the constructs we make. The focus of our worship may no longer be images carved from wood or stone, but their function and purpose remain the same. It could be money, careers, one’s nation, politics, economic policies, philosophical ideas, education, technology, sports franchises, or pop-culture icons. All of these are man-made constructs that are often ascribed ultimate worth and value. Their assets worth calls for sacrifices of our time, our resources, our interests, our lives to them in the conscious or unconscious hope they will deliver some measure of power, approval, comfort control to us. Sometimes we even sacrifice ourselves to these realities not to make ourselves happy directly, but to find joy in pleasing them.

Faith and doubt

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A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do willl find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts—not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’.

 

But even as believers should learn to look for reasons behind their faith, skeptics must learn to look for a type of faith hidden within their reasoning. All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternative beliefs.”

-Tim Keller

Do All Paths Lead To God?

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There is a common illustration that presents all religions as merely different paths leading up the same mountain. The paths converge and unite at the peak: God. The lesson offered is that each path while different leads to the same place. Moreover, the traveler is warned not to worship their path but accept all paths.

Not only does this illustration arrogantly assume a position of god-like knowledge, and ignorantly projects upon all religions a belief in a singular god or any god at all, it also egregiously assumes that all religions serve the same purpose; namely that all religions serve as a means to reach God.

While much could be said concerning how each religion defines its purpose, I will only speak of Christianity. The narrative of the Bible presents a God who left the ‘mountaintop’ in pursuit of us. This is the story of Advent and the story of the Gospels. This is the good news of Jesus Christ.

One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices.

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“One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices. Sometimes we aren’t even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are. We may think that we relate to people who are different from us in colour, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there.

Strangers, people different than we are, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility. They make us lose our sense of security just by being ‘other.’ Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at ‘those other persons’ as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in being human is an expression of the immense richness of God’s heart. Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear.”

— Henri Nouwen, The Spiritual Life

Another lesson from Church history.

Church History, Non Violence

One of the more interesting developments surrounding the formulation of Just War Theory (e.g. the perimeters that outline when warfare and the killing of one’s enemies is justifiable) was how it was also used cement the divide that had been growing between clergy and laity throughout the first 300 years of the Church. 

From Genesis to Revelation the people of God are called a “kingdom of priests.” The day of Pentecost in Acts 2 magnifies this reality with the anointing of the Holy Spirit being poured out on all believers; young and old, male and female, slave and free (not merely kings, high priests, and prophets). The Church community is a priesthood of believers. Yet, this does not mean that all believers are leaders. The New Testament writings acknowledge several different leadership roles that existed in the Church (i.e. Apostle, Elder, Deacon) and outline that these leaders, must among other qualities, be people of exemplary character. How each of these different leadership roles functioned is an issue of great debate throughout Church history. Not to mention that as changes in culture have introduced new forms of social orders and political governance the conversation concerning the structure of Church leadership and forms of Church governance have continued. (This is a topic for further conversation elsewhere.)

The vocational demands of ministry, the call of exemplary character among Church leaders, and the culturally influenced structures of Church governance were all sources of the fracture that was forming between clergy and laity. Then Just War Theory was introduced. It is a theory that began with Ambrose and would ultimately be clarified by Augustine in the 4th century. The theory framed warfare and killing justifiable under particular circumstances and held participants in a military conflict to certain standards of conduct. Just War Theory stood in opposition to the Church’s founding ethical convictions outlined by the words of the Church fathers and exhibited by the martyrs who both clung to Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus taught, and the early Church strongly defended, the uncompromising command to abstain from violence and the call to love one’s enemies. Just War Theory’s introduction, therefore, not only served to establish an alien practice within the Church, it also served as one of the critical defining points that mark the division of clergy and laity into two classes of Christians, each with distinct expectations as disciples.

As the cultural pressure to accept the necessity of war mounting with foreign armies threatening Rome, the Church leveraged the growing divide between clergy and laity to adopt and implement the framework of Just War. The Church concluded that laypersons were allowed to participate in military service and bloodshed, as they were deemed unable to uphold the high moral standard of the Sermon on the Mount. Clergy, however, would remain forbidden to participate in warfare or to bear arms at all. Clergy and laity had undeniably fissured into two distinct classes of Christians.

Then, centuries later as the Protestant Reformation was igniting debates and fracturing the Church—by addressing many of the abuses of the Church—the concept of the priesthood of all believers was refreshed and given new life. In spite of this, the Church as a whole never returned to Jesus’ teaching on non-violence as a standard for all Christians. At best, different groups left the matter of non-violence and participation in wars up to the conscience of individual believers. Although, it is interesting to note that the Orthodox Church still retains the policy that forbids the bearing of arms to its clergy and does not allow a man to continue in the ministry who has shed blood.

Honest Dialogue > Hype

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One of the things I love most about our church is the space that is created for listening to each other and honest dialogue. 

We lack the hype most other churches display in their gatherings. Over 6 years I have seen that this makes a lot of people uncomfortable when they visit. The desire for entertainment, the desire to sink back into a seat without having to acknowledge those around you, or at least the desire to have constant noise clouding out the anxiety of a quiet moment is comforting. Most of us are introverts…we get it. Yet, those who have stuck around find something powerful and transformative in those uncomfortable moments.

If you are looking for something different, you are invited to The Commons Church.