Jesus is best revealed incarnationally
People should be skeptical if our message does not originate from a community that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read 1 Thessalonians 2:3-13

[W]e were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

More thoughts for meditation

Don’t Christians sometimes seem like they think they can just give people information about Jesus and the information will convert them? Faith rarely comes like that. Besides, people always get the person in whatever a person says. Our words can’t help but be incarnate in us.

So unbelievers are often quick to notice if the purportedly life-changing message they are given does not seem to inform the messenger’s life, even while the message-givers are saying that everyone should conform their life to the message they are offering! The incongruity has kind of become a cliche people talk about it so much! Lots of people say, “The church is full of hypocrites!”

That stereotype of Christians did not come from nowhere. Many Christians rely on “the word” rather than being doers of the word. Meanwhile all the preachers in the Bible are incarnational. How we give the message and what we are like as people makes a big difference. The medium is the message—like God demonstrates in Jesus. Paul reminded the Thessalonians: “We dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God.” He defended his message by defending his behavior!

It might seem easier to some people if God just provided people data, but God provided people a person.

If we are trying to be powerful, if we are manipulative, if we are secretly greedy, then people will be skeptical about the truth we tell—and they should be! If we tell people God is love revealed in Jesus, and then our community is not living in love, then people will be skeptical about the love of God—and they should be!

Our individual lives and our life as a community are elemental to the message we bring—whether we like it or not.

Suggestions for action

Pray: Fill us with your truth and love — and empower us to show it, Lord.

Many Jesus followers I know are terrified to mess Jesus up by being a hypocrite. They are so critical of their imperfections that they refuse to represent Jesus! They are so critical of the church that they refuse to invite anyone, lest they see our flaws and be turned off forever! But we can’t condemn ourselves enough to get uncondemnable.

Don’t worry about whether people are skeptical today. Don’t try to be good enough to achieve an “A” grade from people who think they have the right to judge others (even judge Jesus!). Be yourself in Christ and let whatever good you have to give be made evident by the Holy Spirit.

Try being a child right now, not in charge, not complete, dependent on the good will of others—and even drawing out that good, free to ask for it. That’s a good start for being an incarnation, as Jesus showed us.

Today is David of Wales Day. Acknowledge this apostle at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.