Engaging our culture is a discipline of necessity given the interconnected nature of the world in which we live. When John Donne, all those many years ago, said that no man is an island, he was describing a truth that now, in our time, has finally come of age. Whether we are talking about quantum physics or the global economy, we are describing phenomena where, like a hologram, each part contains an image of the whole. To use a crude example, every aspect of creation is like a bowl of raisin Jell-O – if you thump one raisin with your index finger, all the raisins move. It is the same with the world in which we live. Thump one part, and all the parts move.
The resulting ethic of this interconnected reality is compassion.
The Kingdom of God is a divine realm of proactive compassion. This is the message that Jesus came to deliver and through his actions as well as his words, he delivered it consistently. In all that he did and he said, Jesus revealed to us the nature of God. This incarnational revelation was hinted at in the Master’s magnificent prayer in John 17. In the 21st verse the Master says:
I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
In the Bible’s most well known verse, John 3:16, it is stated that for God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life. (NLT)
Now, to make this even clearer, let’s look at one more verse in John 17. In verse three John records:
And this is the way to have eternal life, to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. (NLT)
Putting all this together, Jesus gave us a powerful but very real theology in this prayer and his disciple, John, fully caught its significance by saying in 3:16 that God loved the world so much that he sent his Son to save it. On God’s part, this was a perfect example of “proactive compassion” or what we often call “grace.” Motivated by the purest form of love, God was moved to have compassion on we fallen creatures, even in our blind ignorance, and he literally gave that compassion flesh by sending us the Master Jesus.
Now, just as the Father sent Christ to us, Jesus sends us to be his hands, feet, arms, legs, and most of all, his heart, to the same hurting world. This is the essence of grace and the heartbeat of God’s love. It is what “Incarnational Christianity” is all about.
© L. D. Turner 2009/ All Rights Reserved