The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1; 14From Martin Hayward:
In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul famously listed some of the troubles in which he’d found himself since becoming a Christian. Remember the list which ends “I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?” He explains in the letter that the reason he’s quite pleased that all these bad things have happened to him is because in that way everyone will know he’s genuine – worth listening to since he lived out his faith without wavering.
And that lifestyle-witness is also part of the reason why Jesus was born as a human baby. He was able to live and move among the poor and downtrodden in society and so people began to trust his absolute integrity. Later, disciples became convinced that he had risen from the dead and had returned to heaven leaving behind the good news of sins forgiven. He also left the legacy of his new-found church whose job was to tell their neighbours all about him. Such was the church’s faith and integrity that followers were even prepared to die rather than tell a lie and say that they didn’t believe.
And nothing has changed 2,000 years later. The church’s job – our job – is to live among our neighbours and to proclaim to them the good news of sins forgiven. But unless we’re like Paul and Jesus himself and can show that we really relate to people, share their burdens and live out our faith with integrity, why on earth should they listen to us?
During the 1970s the Catholic Archbishop of Ecuador, Oscar Romero, was outspoken in his concern for the poor and in calling for an end to their oppression by the Revolutionary Junta. A few weeks before he was assassinated he said: ‘I am glad, brothers and sisters, that they have murdered priests in this country, because it would be very sad if in a country where they are murdering people so horrifically there were no priests among the victims. It is a sign that the Church has become truly incarnate in the problems of the people.’
St Paul, Oscar Romero and even, supremely, Jesus Christ himself, saw that it was only when they shared in society’s pain and hardships that their message rang true with the people.
Christianity is on the decline here in the UK. Is that because our lifestyles no longer ring true with our neighbours and we are no longer seen as being Christ’s body incarnate in the world?