“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish” (John 1:14, The Message)
Anthropocentrism is one of those hundred point words in scrabble that you just can’t wait to use and finally beat your mother in law at the game she has owned you on since you first married her daughter. It basically means Human beings are the central fact of the universe. As a worldview it assumes that human beings are the final aim and end of the universe and this world view seems to view and interpret everything in terms of human experience and values. Because of the reality of our fallen nature people are more susceptible to an anthropomorphic theology that can actually destroy the work of God in our communities and churches. I am concerned that what we call church among conservative evangelicalism is more like an attempt to incarnate heaven from earth through a moral asceticism than the messy and explosive result of God incarnating earth from heaven.
There is a divine order and definite direction to The Incarnation. “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” (John 3:13, ESV) When we see Jesus in the Gospels we see dynamite! We see this Holy hand grenade tossed from heaven that makes a messy explosion in clean places. When I was young I would go to my friend’s house late at night shove explosives in toilet paper rolls, toss them in the yard and run. Some of my friends preferred decorating people’s houses with toilet paper as a prank. I wanted a mess for my buddy to clean up. The Incarnation is explosive and hard to clean up after it hit’s our churches. Yet our conservative churches look as clean, organized and as pure as my grandmothers 8 track collection. Why? What’s happening? Something’s wrong in our churches when women who have had abortions only hear from our pulpits and radio stations the horrors and sinfulness of abortion without the greater truth of forgiveness in Christ. Something’s wrong when a person wrestling with sexual sin and identity finds more grace and hope in a faithless community than a faithful one. As conservative evangelicals we are becoming more and more refined to the point that even our churches are not good enough for the purity police that we have created. Our doctrine is saturated in the false piety that it has produced. Like a kid goat boiled in its mother’s milk evangelicals are dying in the very thing that has sustained our life. As a pastor I am watching people die spiritually with bellies full of doctrine, life application and false peace while their adult children NEVER come back to church. The incarnation of Christ exploded into the reality of a religious people so full of cleanliness that no one knew what to do. I want to see messy people come to Jesus and be healed and grow. I want to see our congregation uncomfortable with changing diapers. Jesus identified with what was real and ideal not just ideal… are we sure we are doing that? He became us. He participated with our fallen nature in a way that made the holy uncomfortable and the hell bound hopeful.
I don’t have it all figured out (that’s for sure) but I long for God to move in and among us in explosive ways! The places and people The Incarnation blew up in and around were the crowds, the disciples, the religious leaders, and the political leaders. Today this is happening in reverse among conservative evangelicals. We have our people leaving the public schools for home school and the local churches for home churches. Our people are treating homosexuals like lepers in the name free speech and chicken burgers while our marriages seem to have a bit of a divorce problem. Are we too good and too Holy for those whom God loves? We are retreating to our own definition of clean places. My clean brothers and sisters in Christ are blowing up underground and undetected. The Incarnation has not created definition between sacred and secular, clean and unclean… It has bridged them in uncomfortable and messy ways. Like Peter I think we need to hear this again. The whiteness of our churches, fellowships, bible studies and family temples need a fresh definition of The Incarnation again. People are messy, God became a people. A messy church is a church with people in it no matter how much we clean ourselves up.