Brothers, I entreat you,
become as I am,
for I also have become as you are.
We are a polarized and polarizing people. We all sit on top of our pedestals as we look down and judge others for not being as enlightened as we are. We stereotype others, creating “straw-men” that we can blow over with our brilliant arguments.To make it more insidious, there’s people like me that polarize the polarizers! I arrogantly see myself as being more enlightened and wise so as to not pigeonhole others into simple categories…as I pigeonhole those who don’t see it my way. Here is the problem: we operate with a self-kingship mentality. From the very beginning of time (in the garden) we have decided that we wanted authority over everything and everybody (including God…especially God?). And we live this out in our regular, everyday lives, not really living “with” others but “over” them.
In light of this cultural and spiritual polarization, the verse above offers a lifestyle-hope called “incarnational ministry.” Paul entered the real, regular, messy, everyday life of the people of Galatia. He opened a small business (tent-making), lived in their neighborhoods and engaged their art forms (he would quote regional artists in some of his sermons). He became as one of them…he listened, learned and sought to actually understand; he actually loved them with a loving passion (he would call them his “children” and his “brothers”). But he didn’t stop there. In the midst of his relationships with them he also invited them to know the Jesus that loved and redeemed him from emptiness. His METHOD and his MESSAGE were the same thing: sacrificial relational love. He didn’t just stay on the outside, telling the Galatians to just be better, nor did he entering their world but without the hope of the gospel. He did both. Relationship plus hope.
And this is exactly what Jesus did; who Jesus was. He was the Word (God’s very voice) made Flesh. He was simultaneously God himself and man. He “incarnated” (“made flesh”) as one of us in order to bring us back home. On the cross he was divided from the Father so that our division (“sin”) would be paid for on his back while giving us the his Father-Unity we lost back in the garden and have been craving ever since. This is the WHY and the HOW of doing incarnational ministry. It’s not simply “because Jesus did it.” It’s because we are His and have been fully empowered by his indwelling presence to God’s representative (“ambassadors” according to 2 Cor 5:15-21) to the whole world. God is bringing people back home and using us to do it. What a privilege to not just be in his family, but be instrumental in his Kingdom while being real, raw and honest in our real world.