For centuries the church has talked—and argued—about the character of Jesus. After all, we say that he was the fullest expression of what God is like. And yet we also say that he was human in every way, just like us.
Just like God? Just like us? Which is it?
Here’s Paul’s take on it, probably quoting an early Christian hymn, as you can see from the poetic motion of the text:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. From Philippians 2
The essence of this faith is that the divine took on the human in order to gain us, and to teach us how to live.
The self-limiting of Jesus.
It’s seen throughout the gospels, isn’t it? One minute, we see Jesus performing great miracles. The next, we see him almost fumbling with his humanity, the way the rest of us do. Changing his mind about people, getting worn out, stressed by so much to do. Tired of those disciples he had to hang with all the time.
The holy takes on the ordinary. Jesus was often limited by the ordinary, choosing limitation over strength and power.
It is this ordinariness that is at the same time scandalous and appealing. The very Son of God limited by the things that limit all the rest of us: time and space, living and dying, illness and health, the actions and expectations of others, good and bad relationships. Every day Jesus had to figure out how to get food, where they were going to sleep. Someone was in charge of the money. They had to figure out which road they were going to take to the next town and sometimes they were running late.
God chose not just to view the messiness that we call humanity from some other plane, but to enter this messiness and to be just as at home in it as not.
The spiritual realm and the physical are so intertwined that they cannot be separated, not even in Christ. Neither is holier than the other. Each is made holier by the other.
Wouldn’t it be something if we could see the intertwining of spirit and physicality today? We do, but in an even messier way than Jesus lived it: it is called the Church.
The church is the body of Christ. We worry sometimes that we are not spiritual enough. And we’re probably right. But it’s also likely that we are not mundane enough. Either without the other is not the body of Christ. The mundane must be infused with the spiritual, and the spiritual with the mundane.
This gets messy, and we make lots of mistakes trying to get it right. We’re limited by our location, our resources, our personalities.
Jesus, too, chose to be limited.
That puts us in good company.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2011