In his book Dangerous Wonder, Mike Yacconelli relates a story about a little girl meeting her baby brother for the first time. “Baby, what does God sound like?” she asked. “Because I’m starting to forget.”
What do you think of when you hear the word “God?” If you ask five different people, you’ll probably hear six different answers. Maybe the question has even been a source of frustration—if God would just reveal Himself, then maybe it wouldn’t be so difficult to believe.
But that’s the radical nature of the gospel. See, the gospel doesn’t just tell us that God exists. No, the gospel tells us that God speaks. Throughout the scriptures, God communicates through His Word. When He spoke through His various prophets, it was because “the Word of the Lord came to Isaiah” and to Jeremiah and so on. And, in the fullness of time, the Word of the Lord literally became flesh. Listen to John’s description in John 1:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 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.
15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
John is describing what is known as the “incarnation.” The eternal God of the universe took on human form in the person of Jesus.
But why? There are actually many reasons—the primary one being God satisfying His own need for a man to offer a perfect sacrifice for sin. But there’s another reason as well. In coming to earth in the humble flesh of Jesus, God shows a willingness to identify with the plight of mankind. In Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the devoted father Atticus Finch reminds his daughter Scout that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge others. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view” he tells her. “You’ve got to put on his skin, and walk around in it.”
And that’s what God did. He put on our skin, and walked around in it, so that we have a “high priest” who can “sympathize with our weaknesses…yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). If the God of the universe can do this, how much more can we try and see things through the eyes of spiritual outsiders. If we are called to relate the gospel to our culture, we need to look no further than the humble example of Jesus. To love our world is to see things from their point of view—in the hopes and confidence of the power of the gospel to speak through us to produce radical and lasting change.