Monday, August 06, 2007

Incarnation and The Urban Halo

Incarnation. I’ve known this word for a long time. I’ve heard it many times in church and in Christian circles but I’m not sure I’ve ever fully understood it. Some suggest that we will never fully understand it.

I looked up incarnation in a few places but found this great explanation in a program I have called Quickverse. A book that is contained in Quickverse called The Handbook of Bible Application, came up with this when I searched incarnation.

Sacrificial giving imitates Christ. There is no evidence that Jesus was any poorer than most first-century Palestinians; rather, Jesus became poor by giving up his rights as God and becoming human. In his incarnation God voluntarily became man—the wholly human person, Jesus of Nazareth. As a man, Jesus was subject to place, time, and other human limitations. He did not give up his eternal power when he became human, but he did set aside his glory and his rights. In response to the Father’s will, he limited his power and knowledge. Christ became “poor” when he became human, because he set aside so much. Yet by doing so, he made us “rich” because we received salvation and eternal life.
One of the books I’ve recently read is by an author named Craig Greenfield and is titled The Urban Halo. This book has helped me to understand what incarnation means to a better degree. Craig and his wife voluntarily gave up their rights and position as people who live quite comfortably in Western culture and moved into the slums of Cambodia. While there, they worked with an organization called Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor. One of the five Biblical principals that “Servants” workers are motivated by is incarnation. Here is what they say about it.

Incarnation: We live with the urban poor, learning from them, building genuine relationships, participating in their lives and struggles, learning their language and their culture, and working out how Jesus’ love can best be shown in their context.

I also have family members who are working in the downtown east side of Vancouver, British Columbia doing a similar ministry except with the Salvation Army. I’ll never forget walking down the streets of downtown Vancouver with my brother-in-law Jon. We passed a lot of “street people”. Some were scary but most were just people that I normally would not want to get involved with. And Jon seemed to know them all! By name! (Yes I felt a little guilty and convicted.)

My family members and Craig (the author of The Urban Halo) have both done what Jesus did. Even though they are not poor, they willingly gave up what they could normally have, and became poor. Poor financially, sure, but also poor in where they live and the friends they keep. At least that is what it looks like to the world.

I think this is part of what incarnation is all about. Except that what we have to give up on this Earth can’t be compared to what Jesus gave up leaving God’s side in Heaven.

I love my brother and sister in law and am very proud of them and what they are doing. I’m also thankful to them for helping me better understand what incarnational ministry is all about. I don’t know Craig at all but I would suggest picking up a copy of his book. His book covers a lot of great things including a new model of how to look after orphans and what daily life is like living in the slums of Cambodia. Plus it will give you a first hand view of what incarnational living is all about!




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