Vol 1:27 Listening for the Spirit – Part 2 (being incarnational)

Stopping to listen is an incarnational activity. This past week I was asked by a person in the church I serve what I meant by “incarnational” stating that many in the congregation are not quite sure what I mean by that term when I use it. Though I thought I explained what I mean by this term, apparently it has not been clear enough.

When Jesus as God became a human being, God was incarnated or enfleshed in human flesh – God became a human being! God did not just “seem” human, but God actually became human. John expresses this in John 1:14 – “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Actually the phrase that John uses is the Word who became flesh pitched his tent among us. Pitching his tent among us is to say that God in Jesus came to live among us in the same way that we live with one another. God did not come and establish a mansion in our midst, he came and pitched his tent, built a bungalow in our midst – to live like us, among us, to feel what we feel, to experience what we experience – God became one of us. And as one of us, God in Jesus living among us, spoke our language, embraced our customs and culture, and in the midst of embracing all that makes us human, engaged us in such a way so as to set us free – giving hope, healing, salvation (shalom and wholeness) to all who would open their lives to Christ.

Therefore, when we are incarnational, we are to be like Jesus Christ in the world – pitching our tents among those God has sent us to live among. We are not to be aloof, not to be superior, but we are called and sent to live among them like them. For us to become incarnational is to live in the same manner to those to whom we have been sent to represent the present and coming reign of God.

And as we began to focus on last week – this involves listening for the Spirit. Roxburgh and Boren relate that such listening has two parts (we’ll focus on the second part next week). “First, the church becomes attentive to what is happening through direct involvement with people in [their] location. The best way to do this is by entering the neighborhood and hanging out with people, joining community organizations, connecting with people across the street or at the local coffee shop, and taking walks and initiating conversations – doing a thousand little human things that make life rich” (p. 88).

This is the essence of being incarnational in which we are open to listen for the Spirit. The church in being incarnational is more than being able to confess the right doctrine, or offering a meaningful worship service; the church in being incarnational is evidenced by how we live within our communities where we pay our mortgages or our rent. We are the incarnational church of Jesus Christ when we engage the people all around us – and in developing relationships, real relationships with them, we are able through our living, our speech, our acts of kindness and compassion to represent the presence of Jesus Christ – who is the hope of the world, who alone can set humanity free from all that binds and enslaves us.

Being incarnational is more than holding to a theology of incarnation, it is living the way Jesus lived in the world – “pitching [our] tent in the community, gathering friends, praying with people, and asking what God wanted to do” (p. 88). It is about being present to those we connect with in our lives and neighborhoods demonstrating, in our connecting with them, a different way of being human that comes only through being in relationship with God through Jesus Christ and being wide open to God’s rule and reign in our lives.

iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl