Posted by: rogermitchell | December 24, 2012

God became a human

The wonder of Christmas faith is based on the express conviction that God became a human. Transcendence became doubly immanent. The otherwise unknown God expressed themself first by creating humans in their image so that we could see both what God is like and what we can be like. Then, when as a result of being in God’s image we made a wrong choice and fell away from our original identity, God became the particular human, Jesus of Nazareth, to recover the way forward for us. The believer is someone so gripped by the story of Jesus’ birth, together with his life, death and resurrection, that they are impelled to say that if there is a God who is like that, then they want to love them and follow their example with a whole heart.

My own Christmas faith built up as a child for whom church was always a toxic mixture, yet for whom the testimony of Jesus behind it all became ever more compelling year by year.
Forty-eight years ago, at sixteen, I was sure I wanted to follow a God like this. Soon afterwards I encountered the fulfilment of Jesus’ statement “if anyone is willing to do my will they will know of my teaching whether it’s from God or not” (Jn 7:17). The God who is like Jesus became utterly real for me and has remained increasingly so. The church, on the other hand, has become more and more problematic the more real the God who is like Jesus has become.

Over these last seven years I have been researching the source of this dichotomy, and working to remedy it.
In the process I have come to see the visitations of the Holy Spirit that have birthed the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement during the last century as divine initiatives to restore the egalitarian character of divine transcendence as we encounter it in the Christmas story. Here the metaphors and symbols of imperial hierarchy are all reversed. The baby in the manger is the King of Kings, not Caesar or his puppet representatives in the palace or temple. Despite all the attempts, intentional or accidental, to tame and harness the story of Jesus to affirm and justify the powers of palace and temple, I remain convinced that the God who is both transcendent and immanent, divine and human, is with us in our world. That by his loving Spirit the words reported by the shepherds can yet be fulfilled through our lives: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Lk 2:14).


  1. […] EXCERPTED FROM Charismatic Church source […]

  2. I’ve been thinking about sharing lately and the meaning of the incarnation. Recently I viewed a number of great videos with an archaeologist in British Columbia, Canada. He studies early native societies. He found in research into early long houses that there was a class division between the haves and have nots. So he did some ethnographic work in South America with a similar culture to figure it out. He realized that hunter-gatherer societies tend to be egalitarian and share equally between members. However, once there is a surplus of food available, in his case due to abundant fish in the river rather than agriculture, then greed is allowed, along with private property.

    Hunter-gatherers live at a subsistence level and they share because they need the group to survive in order to survive as individuals. So all are fed, at least to subsistence level. But with the surplus those individuals who can grab the best fishing rock, or are just lucky, gather a surplus. And then they can keep the surplus and not share because they can argue that those less well off simply don’t want to work, or are lazy. The inequality, over time, gets formalized into structures that restrict marriage by class, restrict employment by class or in manifold other ways used to maintain the hierarchy and class structure. And we know from research into the brain that such inequality also changes our brains and we tend to think we are entitled to be entitled.

    Today, around the world we are living at the moment where there is great inequality in societies and between societies. The last 50 years overall were a time of surplus, particularly of food with the green revolution, and the use of fossil fuels (takes the place of slave labour for the rich) and this created much entrenched inequality. But we have now, due to climate change, entered a time of scarcity. The struggle is that those who have much and have justified not sharing during the times of surplus are slow to understand the shift and that it is going to last awhile. Those most impacted by the increasing scarcity, have it figured out, and have demanded a change to sharing so that all can survive (this works at all levels from the individual to between nations).

    What fascinates me is God’s action on this. Through the incarnation, the coming in weakness and with nothing, He challenges us to live out the reality of the Kingdom.The Kingdom is about sharing. We are challenged to live as if we are in the midst of scarcity even in the midst of surplus. And this is supposed to be normal for us. We are to assume that others are in genuine need (due to generalized scarcity) and therefore give up what we have to them (even if we are in a time and context of surplus).

    I live in co-housing. Co-housing is a Kingdom expression as it is predicated on sharing, sharing space, household goods and labour. The problems come when someone in the shared house (no different from that ancient longhouse) assumes that there is surplus and so they can appropriate common space to themselves (just by leaving it a mess), or refuse to help with household chores, or even not pay their way. They are living with the belief that there is a surplus of space, labour, and cash and therefore are not required to share. We call this cheating. And cheating can break any collective if it goes on long enough. But I like co-housing, despite the ongoing issues that must be resolved, for it intentionally sets up this system based on sharing and scarcity (real or not), and in doing so creates a more egalitarian community.

    I’ve realized with this new knowledge of what constitutes and provokes sharing amongst humans that God and the Kingdom is much more interesting than I knew, and much more challenging.

  3. As ever, I find your insights challenging to mind and heart! So big thanks for this. But I’m still not sure that the way to egalitarian living is, as you put it, “to live as if we are in the midst of scarcity even in the midst of surplus.” I wholeheartedly agree that in the incarnation God came in weakness and with nothing. But the gift of himself began to fulfil the “give and it will be given to you” motif from the beginning, despite his positioning among the poor. I agree that the kingdom is about sharing, but with Jesus it is an over-the-top bountiful sharing which multiplies. The tendency to hoard and create equalities when surplus comes is surely evidence of sin and the fall? The creation stories indicate bounty not scarcity, and the incarnation contests the imperial domination and hoarding to which sin led. I believe that the way of kenarchy will release more and more hospitality, bountiful giving and sharing out of the loving stewardship of God’s good gifts.

    This is in no way to say that the people of God don’t have responsibility for the poor, the wicked inequalities among the nations and the destruction of the environment. Our partnership with empire has largely caused it all. But I believe that the way to reverse it is more about living by faith as if there is enough for all rather than holding back as if there is scarcity for all.

    • Well, that is what is so interesting about this research. It seems with hunter-gatherer societies (and this is a rather well known thing across several cultures) the individual knows s/he needs the group to survive in order for him/her to survive individually. And hunter-gatherers tend to have little surplus available except for the moment, say after the killing of a large animal. In other words they don’t store much away but depend upon the ecological context in which they are located to provide on a day to day basis (kind of a ‘give us this day our daily bread thing). The results of that kind of environment are generally more care for the ecological context as they are close to it, and more sharing, and a more egalitarian social structure.

      I think Jesus’ challenge to us is the same. We are not supposed to hoard (a consequence of either fear or greed in surplus), we are supposed to live in the daily expectation that our needs will be provided for and that we need not live for tomorrow’s needs (oh that would be surplus wouldn’t it out of worry and fear), and we are to share, freely because we are not worried but convinced that a loving Lord will provide as we need.

      Now, technically there may be surplus in our context. There may be lots of food on the grocery shelves available to us. But we are to live differently. We are not to hoard, fill our barns and ignore the poor man at the gate. We are not to fill our space with all manner of stuff and leave people homeless. We are not to fill our closets with tons of unneeded, unworn clothes even though there are lots of cheap clothes available in the stores. And if we are not using something, perhaps it should be passed on, otherwise we are hoarding.

      Surplus provokes greed and hoarding precisely because the group is less inclined to protest it. If there is only so much to go around, a hoarder, or greedy person, would be sanctioned by the group. But if there is plenty then the group becomes lazy about sanctions and a few (the aggrandizers as the researcher called them) will take advantage of that. If it goes on long enough then private property becomes the norm and attitudes become entrenched in a class system and inequality occurs. The bible says we are not to even eat with a greedy man, share the table with them, because greed breaks community, it puts the individual ahead of the collective.

      I think the challenge of Jesus is that yes, in the midst of abundance or scarcity, we live to share. We acknowledge our Lord gave up his glory to come with nothing, in need of being shared with and sustained as an infant and child. We don’t approach scarcity with fear because God says He will care for us and provide. So when I say that we are to live as if in scarcity, that is not a fear provoking thing, but a faith provoking thing, and a generousity provoking thing.

      I’m still thinking this all through and I don’t have a ‘theology’ of it at all. But when I saw these videos I felt this guy had come to a powerful understanding of human communities. Empire, and being on the supportive side of empire, means we are promised surplus by those in power whom we support. If we support the poor and marginalized then we must depend upon God to provide the surplus because, in a time of empire we are choosing scarcity when we align ourselves with them.

      Just thinking out loud here Roger,

  4. I like this very much now you have thought it out loud more! Jesus is clearly countercultural on both hoarding surplus and private property. So should we be. What we have is for sharing.

  5. Thanks for this great link, Cheryl. A seriously countercultural celebrity tale!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: