Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Human identity in light of Incarnation

When considering the title of this blog post, it should immediately appear obvious that there is much, much, much to say There is far too much to say about this in one blog post, so I am going to be limiting myself to one consequence that Incarnation has on human identity. I am going to speak specifically of human value.

Some persons have trouble appreciating their value. I had this trouble for a while myself. It is a miserable condition to be in, not to see your own value and your own worth. It debilitates you, it paralyzes you by sapping any and all motivation to accomplish anything. But this is not what God demands or wants of us, and this is why too lowly an opinion of yourself is so spiritually dangerous. God demands us and wants us to work alongside Christ in bringing the Kingdom here; he wants us to enjoy fellowship with him, to repent of our sins, to help those who are in need, to be a light and salt to the world, to bring the message of salvation to all who can hear it. The depressed unmotivated paralysis that self-loathing brings impedes all of this.

I think a proper antidote to this lowly self-perception is found in the doctrine of the Incarnation. As I've been saying, the goal of God from the beginning was to incarnate, to live among men and women as one of them while remaining their God as well. On Christmas Day we celebrate the fact that God has chosen to live among men, that his Kingdom has come to earth because his will to reign among us is being realized. But notice, too, something else about what the Bible teaches.

As I cited from Paul, Col 1.16 says that all things were created through him and for him, speaking of the incarnate Christ. Consider too what the epistle to the Hebrews says: that Christ has been appointed heir of all things (Heb 1.2). And the author of Hebrews goes on to describe Christ's reaction to being given the body of believers as his own: Here am I and the children whom God has given me (Heb 2.13).

Understand this: if all things are created for Christ, then this means that you are God the Father's gift to the Son. It was God the Father's intention from the very beginning to give you to the Son, that he enjoy fellowship with you for eternity. And the Son is glad and happy to receive you, because he loves you as the Father's gift.

When you turned away from God and lived a life of sin, when your mind was in the darkness and when you knew nothing of your true identity or purpose, God the Father did not see fit to leave you to be destroyed and to undergo death. Instead he sent the Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh (Rom 8.3). For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5.21).

When God gives a gift, he is determined to see the recipient enjoy it. You are the gift of the Father to the Son, and the Father did not allow that you be undone by your sin but instead, through the Son, secured salvation for you. What should you think of yourself, then, since you are the Father's gift to the Son, and God considered you worthy of being ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet 1.18-9)? How can anyone think lowly of himself and find in himself no worth, when God finds in you the worth of the Son of God himself?

In the Incarnation, we can see the love that God has for us, and the value that we have in his eyes. Like Gregory of Nyssa once said, we human beings are like gold with impurities; we are not thrown away but cleansed, since the impurities are not a part of us but foreign bodies which must be removed. We are not snow-covered dung, in that miserable turn of phrase often attributed to Luther, but gold in the sight of God. Christ says of us who gather to worship him: Here am I and the children God has given me (Heb 2.13)!