If you haven’t read the comments from the ‘dead fly’ post you are missing something exceptional, especially bdfwinn’s poem, and 2lb2’s off the charts oration—what a stunner. 2lb2, you need to visit more often. Your comments are welcome here.
Now back to the incarnation. I have written of the incarnation as the Lord’s acceptance of us as fallen creatures, and in terms of His determined identification with us in our fallenness. The Father, Son and Spirit are not in denial about the disaster of the fall, nor do they react with neutrality or indifference, and certainly not with rage. The dream of our adoption stands, but now this dream includes dealing with our profound darkness. The one thing that the Father, Son and Spirit counted on from us—the single divine expectation—is that we would reject Jesus and put Him to death. It is here that we see the incarnation as grace.
I have heard grace defined as ‘God’s unmerited favor’ and as ‘God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.’ There is something to be said for both ideas, notwithstanding the latter’s assumed and dreadful split between the Father and the Son. The love of the Father, Son and Spirit is certainly unmerited, and it is costly, but more must be said about the pain of grace. To be gracious is to hurt, for it is not merely to wink at a problem, but to enter into it and bear it personally, to endure it, in love and mercy and patience. The incarnation involved and continues to involve Jesus’ entrance into our fallen world and broken lives, and it involves his personal suffering from our blindness. Grace is the freedom to bear another’s scorn, for their salvation.
Many years ago I read Rudyard Kipling’s great poem, “If,” and was struck by one particular line. “If you can keep your head, when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you, you will be a man.” It is the blaming part that reveals the deep heart of grace. Keeping your wits about you, maintaining your balance and orientation can be difficult, but how much more so when everyone else is flying off the handle, so to speak, or losing the plot, as the Ozzies say, and in their fear and pain making you the scapegoat for their trauma? ‘That is what you call ironic,’ as the one-eyed pirate said. And the grace of the blessed Trinity involves terrible irony. Either the Father, Son and Spirit were caught by surprise when we humiliated and murdered Jesus, or they saw it coming, and deliberately incorporated it as the way of incarnation and reconciliation.
We killed the solution. The blessed Trinity expected it, and used our rejection of Jesus as the means to establish a real relationship with us as we are in our brokenness. Such is grace. But as shocking and beautiful as this is, more must be said. For the death of Jesus was not an act of detached, clinical justice. We murdered him, and the act was full of contempt, and disdain, bitterness, mocking, and hatred. The Father’s Son himself was patronized by his own creatures as a blaspheming, demon-possessed, cursed of God liar who mislead the people and deserved to be spit upon and crucified. Jesus deliberately and willfully submitted himself to suffer our patronizing contempt, even to the point of death by public humiliation. The whole world sneered. Part of his grace toward us was the fact that he did not vaporize the human race, and part was his astonishing heart of submission to our profoundly bizarre and cruel judgment. But there was no other way for the dream off the Father, Son and Spirit to be fulfilled. Grace is the freedom to bear the scorn of another’s enlightenment, and Jesus did it, thereby proving himself a Kipling man, gracious, and truly divine.
‘No room in the in,’ was the first hint of the human enmity on Jesus’ horizon. He never batted an eye, and “instead of the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Think about this: in Jesus himself, in his own person and experience, the world of our darkness, contempt and disdain met the world of his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the place where these two worlds met and are united. By bearing our bitter, patronizing cruelty, Jesus has united his life with the worst of ours. That is acceptance, and identification, real forgiveness and reconciliation, and that is grace. And it is real. And we are included in Jesus’ relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit, because, as Athanasius said, he is a gracious and merciful Lord who loves the human race.
“What love, what care, what fearless joy
has found us in the night
that we may know as he has known
the everlasting light”
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of his Papa, and the free flowing fellowship of the Holy Spirit overwhelm us all, this season in particular.