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The Incarnational Community

• Greg Boyd

Central to Greg’s message today was that the incarnation was not simply a historical act that ended at Christ’s ascension. It goes MUCH further than that! The Church IS the Body of Christ – we are the hands, the feet, the ambassadors, the temple, the Body through which God works. Therefore, we must share Christ’s attitude summed up by this phrase: be present, in love, without judgment.

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Last week the theological term at the core of the message was “perichoresis.” This week it was “incarnation.” Last week we saw that the perichoretic (“mutually indwelling” or interpenetrating) love of God is active not only between the Father, Son and Spirit, but that God in Christ calls the world into this eternal dance of love. Perichoresis—the inner life of God!—is extended to us! This act of God dwelling with us in the world in Christ is referred to as the incarnation. The greatest description of it is the famous passage in Phil. 2:5-11.

Central to Greg’s message today what that the incarnation was not simply a historical act that ended at Christ’s ascension. It goes MUCH further than that! The Church IS the Body of Christ. The Church is the present manifestation of God in the world. We are Jesus to the world, not just symbolically, but really, truly. That is why we are here. 2 Cor. 5:20 states that we are ambassadors for Christ, that we are to be making God’s appeal to the world! We, collectively, are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor.6:19-20; 12:12-13, etc.)! We are the primary expression of God in the world. If this doesn’t cause you fear and trembling (Phil 2:12-13), then perhaps nothing will! God is at work in us to will and to do what God is trying to accomplish in the world. We are the hands, the feet, the ambassadors, the temple, the Body through which God works.

If we are to “be Jesus” to people, then we must share Christ’s attitude. (Recall Phil 2:1-5, especially vs. 5). And when people question us as they did our Lord (John 14:8-9), we too should understand that what they see in us is may be the only picture of God they will get. Of course, we are not Christ, and we are not members of the Trinity, but we are ambassadors, and the temple and the Body of Christ. If we are to spend eternity in the presence of perfection then we will need to be drawn very near indeed. Christ came as an example to us of what a human in right relationship to God should look like. Now we, the church. are left with that legacy to express.

All of this changes how we might respond when the ever-present question arises, “Why isn’t God doing anything about this?” This question emerges in many forms: Why doesn’t God relieve poverty? Heal the sick? Free the oppressed? Help broken homes? Well, God might well respond, “I’m trying to, through YOU! Why won’t you cooperate with me?” Rather than sit back and bemoan God’s inactivity we should get busy listening and obeying God so that the world may know that God exists and Christ is true! God wants to respond to all of those cries through the church! That’s one of the reasons we exist! Just as God in Christ was incarnated into our world, we too, as Christians and as the Church are to be incarnate in the life of the world. Greg described this central call this way:

Be incarnational = Be present, in love, without judgment

Just as God didn’t stand over our lives and judge them, neither are we to stand over the lives of others in judgment. Just as God came into our mess to show the way by living out a sacrificial and active love, so also we must do likewise for our neighbors, including our “enemies” (of course, a true Christian has no enemies. A true Christian loves all those that God loves, that is everyone.). No, God set judgment aside and entered into our story. (See John 12:47; there will be judgment enough at the end, this is the season for us to win the world by imitating Christ to reduce the judgment at the end.) This is the example we are to follow. Set judgment aside and enter into the stories of those around you. Demonstrate God’s love through sacrifice and service. Don’t speak of it until you feel compelled by the Spirit, not your own sense of representing the truth. The truth is best represented in action, not words. Something sacred, something truly godly and divine happens when—through our actions—we make another’s story our own. When we take up the burdens of others and express unity, the unity that Christ purchased for us on the cross.

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Topics: Community, Judgment, Love, Sacrifice

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Focus Scripture:

  • John 14:8-9

    Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

    Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

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