Posted by: DCox | July 7, 2008

Incarnational Relationships: Showing us the Father

In my last post, I asked the question, “How does transformation occur?” and suggested that incarnational relationships are part of the answer. 

 

God’s plan for bridging the gap between His deity and our humanity is the incarnation of His Son Jesus.  See the verses below that speak to this.

 

John 1:1,14

 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

John 14:9

9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

 

Hebrews 1:1-2

 1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

 

The incarnation – the Son of God, Jesus, living among man for a time in history — was instrumental in bridging the gap between humanity and God. Jesus showed his disciples the Father (God).

 

Have followers of Christ been given this same incarnational ministry of showing others the Father?  Many of us can speak to the influence of Christian family and friends in our lives; how we have been drawn to God through loving relationships.   

 

[I refer to missiological insights below that help explain why knowledge itself often isn’t sufficient to transform lives.  Instead it takes experience that speaks to the heart.  The material found below is adapted from a Discipling for Development lesson which was originally based on content found in Creating Understanding by Donald Smith. ]

 

Dr. Don Smith, a missiologist, uses the cultural onion as a tool to explain how change occurs – from the inside out.  Changing a behavior (the outside layer of the onion) does not necessitate a change in the core.  We can change our appearance or the way we greet people with some ease.  However, changing an addiction (a behavior) that is based on an informal belief, e.g., the belief that I am flawed, is extremely difficult and often short lived without a more fundamental change in my belief system.  I need to believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully created – not flawed – then there will be hope that the addiction can be overcome (although it can still be difficult because it is a habitual behavior triggered by life events).  

 

Our goal is to get at the core. The core is formed almost totally in the first seven years of life (heavily influence by our experiences). It is made up of:

  • Values
  • Informal beliefs (the informal beliefs are the ones upon which people act in their private lives)
  • Presuppositions about: World, Man, God, Reality

If we are non-believers, our beliefs and presuppositions about God, man and the world need to change so they are in line with reality. However, even followers of Christ may possess informal beliefs that are unbiblical because of our life experiences; these also need transformation. 

 

So how is the core transformed?

The core is surrounded by experience. This level of personal experience is the one vulnerable area, the place we can “crack the core” or influence people. It is from this that the core was originally formed. Through our acts and the work of the Holy Spirit, we want people to experience Jesus. As you share your life with someone, they can personally experience Christ in you. Through relationship and deed people begin to experience unconditional love – the love of God.  The non-believer upon experiencing God’s love through you may invite you to share the gospel message.  As they experience Him and His good news, there is an opportunity for new understanding (recall Matthew 13:23, hearing the word and understanding) and transformation. Similarly, as the follower of Christ experiences the unconditional love of others some of the lies he/she has believed may be realigned with biblical truth. The unconditional and servant love of others is powerful; it show us the Father and His heart for us.  It can draw us further into relationship with Him to fill the holes left by the wounds inflicted by others and our own brokenness.

Cultural Onion

Cultural Onion

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