Sunday, November 22, 2009

Identification

The last blog was focused on the incarnation as an act of divine acceptance of the human race as we are in our profound confusion. Without approving of what happened in Adam, and without being in denial about it, the Lord, in His everlasting commitment to share His abounding life with us, became what we are. Before creation the Father, Son and Spirit dreamed of our adoption. Unto this end the universe and humanity were called into being, and the Lord entered into real relationship with Adam and Eve. Believing the lie of the evil one opened the door for darkness and alienation to enter Adam’s world, ruining all possibility of relationship between Adam and the Lord.

The first response of the Lord was simple acceptance (without approval) of what had happened. Then came His clothing of his terrified creatures. And recall that I said the clothing of Adam and Eve was never about God and some divine need to be appeased. The clothing was about the afflicted and terrorized conscience of Adam and Eve. For there can be no real relationship, and thus no real sharing of life, when fear and hiding dominate Adam’s fallen mind. For John, the incarnation involves the Lord’s acceptance of the fallen world, and it involves a stunning move toward real identification. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” That is to say, the Father’s son not only became human, but so entered into our fallen world as to establish relationship with us as fallen creatures. He entered into Adam’s fallen mind, identifying with the way Adam, and the human race at large, see things.

The sharing of life is the point, which necessitates real relationship, which in turn necessitates that we must find a way into God’s life, or the Lord must find a way to into ours. Acceptance is the first step. Identification is the next. We are capable of neither. So the Lord is his abounding grace, as Irenaeus said nearly 19 centuries ago, became what we are (Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John, the disciple of Jesus).

Identification, like acceptance, does not mean approval. It means that one person so desires to share life with another (which is the trinitarian way of being) that she or he is willing to enter into the other person’s way of thinking, seeing and believing (without necessarily approving of them at all), even into the other’s way of seeing themselves. For John, that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” means that the Father’s Son has identified with us in our profound darkness, especially with our grotesque confusion about his Father. There are few words more terrible than “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” Yet that is exactly what the Father’s Son did. He entered not only into our world, but into our darkness and dastardly broken way of seeing, believing and thinking, and there he was terribly rejected, exactly as He knew He would be. Think about it. This is not na├»ve divine denial. Jesus and His Father and the Holy Spirit knew what we would do—reject Jesus—and Jesus embraced our rejection, deliberately and astonishingly allowing Himself to be cursed and damned by His own creation. And—and the existence of the universe hangs on this and—in allowing Himself to be cursed by His own creation, He met us in our sickness, and He brought His Father and the Holy Spirit with Him.

So then, the Father, Son and Spirit (and their shared life, love and fellowship) have not only accepted us in our terrible sin, but have so made their way into our craziness that their shared life now dwells in our brazen, wrongheaded rejection. Jesus’ way of seeing and believing and thinking has set up shop inside our darkness. His own relationship with His Father, and His own relationship with the Holy Spirit have—through His enduring of our bitter scorn—pitched their tent inside our hell. Acceptance. Identification. Determined love. Real relationship. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Acceptance

The incarnation means that the Father’s one and only Son became a human being, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He who is face to face with the Father became what we are. Such staggering humility is a theme in itself, and we will come back to the Lord’s humility, but for the moment, the focus is upon the hidden acceptance involved in the coming of the Father’s Son.

In the Genesis narrative (and excuse me if I refer to something other than John and Ephesians) Adam and Eve’s fall left them hiding from the presence of the Lord. Terrorized and overwhelmed with guilt, they were not about to come out and face the Lord. And the Lord, in beautiful and astonishing grace, met them where they were in their new found darkness. He clothed them. Most of us in the West, subject as we are to the trauma of legalism, would assume that the Lord clothed them so that He could look at them, given that He is so holy as to not be able to look upon sinners. Such a notion is the product, in my opinion, of the fallen mind. The act of clothing Adam and Eve is not about the Lord and His supposed need to be appeased, but about Adam and Eve and their afflicted conscience. They have believed the lie, and doubted the very heart of the Lord. In believing that the Lord is not really for them they have adopted a profoundly alien paradigm. How could they possibly react to the presence of the Lord, given what they now believe about Him. The Lord, however, has set His heart upon Adam and Eve, and in them upon the race at large, to do us good beyond our wildest dreams. But now that Adam has bought the lie such relationship is beyond possibility.

I submit that the clothing of Adam and Eve had no Godward direction at all. It had nothing to do with the fallen notion that we must pacify and angry God, or that God needs to be pacified. The clothing of Adam and Eve was an act of concession on the Lord’s part, accommodating Adam’s fallen imagination, in order to establish a real relationship with Adam and Eve in their fallenness. In His astonishing love, and in determination to fulfill His dreams for our adoption, the Lord stoops to meet Adam and Eve where there are, to relate to them as fallen creatures. He accepts the situation. He accepts the fall as reality for Adam and Eve. He does not approve of their debacle, but neither is He in denial about what has happened. Adam and Eve have bought the lie. Their basic cast of mind is now terribly skewed. They believe terrible things about the Lord. They are hiding. The Lord meets them in their darkness and clothes them so that their conscience can be somewhat quieted, and perhaps a new relationship can begin.

The incarnation is the same love and determination writ large. The Lord comes in person. He comes to us. He enters into our world of darkness. He comes to His own. He not only becomes a human being; He becomes flesh. That is to say, He enters into the bushes with Adam and Eve, stepping into their terribly wrongheaded frame of reference and way of thinking. Why? To meet us where we are. To establish a real relationship with us as we are in our brokenness.

The incarnation is an act of divine acceptance of the human race as we are in our profound confusion. Without approving of what has happened, and without being in denial about it, the Lord, in His relentless love and determination to live in relationship with us and to share His abounding life with us, becomes what we are.

There is a lesson here about the power of acceptance. To accept someone is not necessarily to approve of what they are about, or even of what has happened. To accept them is to say that we recognize that what has happened is real, and that we intend to meet them where they actually are. The incarnation is the determination of the love of the Father, Son and Spirit to establish a real relationship with us as we are in our darkness. It is a costly move, as John announces in his prologue. ‘He came unto his own and His own received Him not.’ This rejection on our part will lead to the terrible shout, ‘Crucify, Crucify Him!’ And this shout, which is more than mere words, is where the incarnation finds its ultimate fulfillment. As we, as the Jews, as the Gentiles, the Romans, and the race at large nail the Lord to the cross of Calvary in utter rejection, He submits Himself to our brazen wrongheaded judgment, thereby meeting us at our utter worst, thereby establishing a real relationship with us as we are in our fallen, broken, judgmental craziness. And He brought His Father and the Holy Spirit with Him.

Acceptance leads to real relationship, and real relationship leads to real relationship.

May the Holy Spirit give us more light.