God Con Carne

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Fifteen years ago, while working out at a gym in Philadelphia, a song was broadcast across the sound system. As I listened to the words, I just about dropped the weights I was trying to lift over my head.

What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us?

Just a stranger on the bus

Trying to make his way home?

The song was a huge hit, actually the only hit by Joan Osbourne. But I think its popularity was the result of the way the song tapped into an inner longing all of us feel.

We all want God to understand us. We all want him to be like us.

Listening to the lyrics of the song, I kept thinking, But he is one of us! He did become a slob like one of us! He does understand!!

Theologians call this incarnation. It means God did indeed become one of us. He set aside the privileges of heaven in order to clothe himself with humanity. God in the flesh, or as my friend Gary Reddish calls it, “God con carne.”

As we prepare for Christmas in two days, I invite you to spend a little time meditating on a passage of Scripture that clearly presents the incarnation—and share how it speaks to you:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

–Philippians 2:5-11

Reading this passage, I’m struck by God’s relentless, unstoppable love. He made himself nothing—nothing!—in order to reach me. But he did it anyway. This takes my breath away. It inspires me to imitate him, but at the same time I know I’ll never equal it.

How is God speaking to you in this passage?

Beginning January 1, we’re going to read through the Bible in a year…and then discuss it as a community. For more information click here. To make it more meaningful for you and others, invite your friends to join the conversation.

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1 Comment

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One response to “God Con Carne

  1. Doris

    Loved that you mentioned Gary. He took me to the hospital for my cancer surgery. Very kind.

    We were doing an email bible study and a seminary friend, Peggy McIntyre, shared this about the Phil 2 1-11 a bit more than you cited but I want to pass it on:

    “I love this passage, especially vv. 5-11. It is interesting to me, the way that we translate v.4. The word ‘only’ is an insertion. The NASB says that it is inserted for readability consistent with the rest of the passage. The NRSV does not insert ‘only’. It reads: “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” The difference appears in the Greek in that there are an equal number of manuscripts that supply ‘also’ after the ‘but’ and that leave it out. It would seem to make more sense for it to be an early insertion rather than and early deletion and so there is slightly better support for the ‘also’ being added.

    In fact, the ‘only’ lessens the impact of the verse so that it is not quite in line with the Christ hymn of vv. 5-11. Christ was hanging out in complete co-existence within the Godhead but He did not consider that position something to hold onto. He certainly did not put His own interests first or even equal with our interests. In fact, He stepped down into creation and took on the form of a human, perhaps analogous to one of use choosing to step down from the top of the food chain and take on the form of a frog and wander around in the yuck of a swamp. He submitted Himself to the humiliation of an undeserved torture and death, naked and despised by the very people He had given it all up for. Doesn’t sound much like His interests were even in the decision making mix.

    After it was all done, after He had endured everything, including acquiring now a glorified body when He did not before have a corporeal body, giving up some attributes forever, then God exalted Him so that in the end of time every knee will bow and every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus, who Paul uses as an example here, did not consider our interests as co-equal with His. He abandoned His own interests in favor of the interests of creation. That’s our example.

    The NRSV reading is the more accurate. So what does that mean? It does not mean that we insure that our needs are met and then meet the needs of others with what is left over. Meeting our own needs is not actually our job. If we believe that we belong to God then we have accepted that that job is God’s through the action of His Body.

    My job is to focus on your needs. It is not that I make a choice to sacrifice my needs so that I can meet yours each time, allowing me to feel holy and self-righteous. It is that in surrendering to God I have set my needs at His feet and taken up His cause in your interest. My needs no longer even figure into the conversation with in myself.

    In this way the Body functions so that we do indeed rejoice with one another and weep with one another because we are fully and completely invested in one another.

    Not an easy instruction but a road that Christ walked before us in a much more significant way with far greater sacrifices involved. He demonstrated the way.”

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