I have come to understand that one of the missing pieces of Christian Theology is Re-Incarnation. But before you begin to think I’ve converted to hippie, let me back up and explain what I mean.
Over the past few weeks I have noticed that one of the repeated themes of Christian history, especially after the third century, was debate over the nature of the incarnation. That is, we became adept at arguing over what exactly happened in Bethlehem.
Now there was a ton of different nuances to this discussion, much of the time debates revolved around single Greek words. Some people got upset if a word was used to describe the incarnation that wasn’t used in Scripture. It seems like Creeds were drawn up weekly to defend or define Jesus’ nature. Groups split often, and there was more drama than in the Jackson 5.
All over the Incarnation.
A couple of weeks ago in Nashville, a story ran in the local news about a family named the Hazelips. The tag line for this story was, “Imagine living the perfect life in the suburbs, with a big house, green grass, and a pool. But one Nashville couple still felt empty, so they packed up and moved to one of the highest drug ridden areas of the city.”
They left their upper-middle class life, and moved into the projects. Which is not normally the direction people choose with their lives. You rarely hear a C.E.O. saying the next step after a house in the Hamptons is to finally get that apartment in the projects.
But this family did it. They saw it as a part of following Jesus. And now because of this strange move, the kids of this neighborhood have ice cream on Thursday afternoon’s and movies on Friday nights. The Hazelips have helped some of the adults overcome their addictions.
All because someone chose to move in a downward direction.
One of my good friends made a point recently. He said that much of the time our theology is gnostic. But he doesn’t mean that the way you might think. Gnosticism is the belief that the material is bad, and the spiritual, or non-material is good. It was one of the first heresies. And my friend’s point is not that we necessarily believe that, but that we practice that.
A lot of the time our theology is talked about but not lived out.
It is discussed but not embodied.
Which is what I think part of the problem was with Christian’s trying to describe the incarnation. It had become abstract, a theory. When in fact it was the one part of our Theology that was the most concrete of all. In other words God had put on skin, not theory.
God had laid down his divine prerogatives, he had in the words of Paul, emptied Himself.
And we tried to describe this all while fighting for more power, more influence than the other guys.
Now don’t get me wrong. I recognize that I am in debt to these earlier Christians for wrestling with some pretty tough stuff on describing the birth of Jesus. I am thankful that they had these harder conversations. But this seems to be the one area of Christianity that demands more than just talk.
Because the beauty of the Incarnation is that it didn’t just happen. It happens.
Everytime a follower of Jesus chooses the path of descent. Everytime someone chooses to serve vs. fighting to be served.
That’s re-incarnation. It’s following Jesus in the hardest move of all.
And it can still change the world.
Just ask the Hazelips.