The Word, part 2: The Word Made Flesh
Words can clarify. Words can obscure. But words rightly spoken are words that build shalom – they contribute to the flourishing of the world and of others. Words rightly spoken can give life. They edify and encourage. Words rightly spoken can reveal Truth. Words rightly spoken usually have the backing of a person behind them so that the words can be enacted or lived into. They have the potential to be fleshed out.
The logos (the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that was and is God) became flesh and pitched his tent among us. He dwelt among us. He became Incarnate, appearing in flesh and blood. He came not to obscure but to make known. He came to reveal God to us, to make known real Truth about God, to declare in his Person the ultimate self-disclosure of the Lord God Almighty. His was also an invitation to a real relationship with God.
God's Word coming to us needed to be in a way we could see, hear and handle. It needed flesh and bones. Divine words to non-divine creatures don't really connect with where we are. They come off more as demands or dictates, rules to follow lest we be crushed for our insubordination. Hard to trust something completely Other that has all the power. We need some way of knowing what that Other is really like. Words help. But again, they really need some meat on them.
There have been times when I wanted to be able to communicate clearly to my dogs how much I wanted them to not dig up my yard. I would love to be able to teach them and reason with them and gain their appreciation for the good sense in preserving our common domain. But they either ignore me, run away from me, or simply look quizzical. You know – the ears up, head cocked sideways look like they are trying to make sense of something. If I could only become a dog, perhaps I could make them understand. But of course, if I was a dog, I wouldn't understand. I would probably dig right alongside them. I would somehow need to be fully a dog to communicate with them effectively, and yet also remain fully human so that I could carry my thoughts, will, and desires for them to them. Fully human and yet fully dog.... Aren't there some nutty movies out there about something like that happening through a fluke of science? Maybe I'm thinking of The Fly. Oh well.
So part of what we mean when we speak of the Word becoming flesh, is that this is God taking on our humanity while maintaining His deity. He is not merely another mortal human. But He is also not God in a human-like costume. He is fully human. He is fully God. The early Church struggled with this mighty and majestic mystery and came up with language like “two natures, one Person.” The Eastern Fathers also taught that the Word had to take on every aspect of our true humanity or we could not be fully redeemed. The Word made flesh had to have a human body, a human mind, a human will, human emotions, etc. But the Word could not be tainted with sin or else the enfleshed-Word would also need redeeming. Apparently sin is not part of what it means to be truly and fully human. It's the sin part that had its origin outside the good creature that God made in the beginning. It wasn't native to our created humanity. But yet sin had to be dealt with us for us to be finally and completely redeemed.
The Word became flesh not to gain perspective. He knew what was in the heart of man. He wasn't playing the missionary tourist. He came to deal with sin in his flesh so that we might be delivered from the ravages of sin in ours. He came as a Suffering Servant to suffer sin's consequence, which is ultimately death. But he suffered more because he suffered sins not his own. He suffered sin's horrors in the holy and good innocence of his Person. And he did it that one Day sin would no longer be part of our experience. We would truly be fully human again. It was and is love fleshed out....