The second thing about our missionary God is that he is:
2. A God who identifies
He identified with us in order to save us
Paul tells us in Philippians 2:6-8 that although Christ Jesus was “in very nature God” he was willing to be “made in human likeness”. And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
God loved us so much that he became one of us, experiencing all the pressures, suffering, disappointments, humiliation, injustice, unrequited affection and temptations that we do. Ultimately, says Paul he became “obedient to death— even death on a cross!” He suffered a terrible death, more than identifying with all human suffering and bearing all human sin.
So we must put ourselves in place of those who do not know God intimately and do not enjoy the great benefits of such a relationship. We are not better than them but we do have many good things to share with them. So we should reach out to them.
He came from the light of heaven to the spiritual darkness of this world.
In Colossians 1:12-13 Paul contrasts “the kingdom of light” with “the dominion of darkness”. So God identified with us even though we are, to say the least, so different from him.
So the church must welcome those who are “different”: those who come from different social or educational backgrounds, those who have different tastes in worship, those who express themselves differently, etc.
He came from omnipotence to weakness
“He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” says Paul (Philippians 2:7). In other words, God made himself vulnerable in order to identify with us.
So we are called to make ourselves vulnerable in reaching out to people who may disagree with us or even reject us. That is the way of Christ. He calls us to take the humble place, to serve those who are not yet churchgoers, as well as those who are. He calls us to be prepared to be disturbed; to sacrifice.
He came from the purity of heaven to the sinfulness of this world
Speaking of Jesus, the writer to the Hebrews said: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Heb 4:15). So Jesus identified with sinners, even though he never once sinned.
We too are called to identify with those who have fallen into even serious sin, in order to redeem them. After all, we are all sinners.
So, we believe in a God who came into the world to identify with all human beings in order to save them. We are obliged to do the same: it is godly and Christ-like for us to do so.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction