A blog post by Adam Butler
Yesterday, Aaron wrote these words about idolatry and the dangers of a self constructed God: “We call this the incarnation, and that is the core of what the Gospel is all about: the reality of what it means to be human, in God’s view. And most of the time, God’s action is a mystery, one that goes well beyond proof or conceptualization.”The heart of Aaron’s argument is in these words. And the key to it all is the belief that God is not only a God of action but is also a God who acts through creation and people.
This belief does not contradict the mystery of God. Actually, I think it heightens the mystery of God, that God would choose to act through the very humans God created. To “be human in God’s view,” is to be identified as an integral part of God’s mission in the world.
Concerning this mission, there is a vast number of writings about what exactly this means. I’m not always sure that I understand. Believing in God involves accepting the mysteries of God. However, I gain a better understanding of God’s mission in this world through Aaron’s conversation about idolatry and viewing God as a concept or idea.
In the incarnation, God becomes human in Jesus Christ in order to more full embody that which God created. Instead of a conceptualized, far away God, God becomes part of us. God works through humanity. And if God is a God of action, are we not then supposed to be a people who act not on our own behalf but on behalf of the other?
“God is a God of action: God loves, God forgives, God judges, God sacrifices, God serves, God saves,” Aaron wrote.
I do not want young people to be bogged down by trying to figure how to act and live in this world based on how they, or others, construct God in their minds. This is at the heart of the problems Christian faith is facing in our society — not immorality, promiscuity, political parties, or other cultures. We’re trying to figure out God within our own views and opinions instead of seeing God as God actually exists: in, among, and through us.
Instead, I want young people to know that because God works through them, they are to be people of action. They are not to act because action will somehow lead to ticket to somewhere better after this life. No, I want young people to know that because God works through them, they are to be people who love, people who forgive, and people who sacrifice, serve, and save.
We love others because God loved us first. We forgive because God became human in Jesus Christ and died so that we would no longer bear our own sin. Through caring and compassionate relationship, we are brought under judgment together and reminded of the grace of God in Christ. We sacrifice part of ourselves in order to serve others in the name of God.
As those called to ministry with young people, we are indeed called to this same kind of action on behalf of the young people with whom we engage. If our communities of faith became more about God working through us, about loving, forgiving, and serving, and less about how we construct God in our own image, we just might move out of our limiting ideologies.
We just might be able to live the incarnation instead of just talking about it.
Adam Butler is a recent graduate of the M.Div. program, with an emphasis in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry, at Luther Seminary. Throughout college and prior to beginning seminary, he worked in multiple youth and outdoor ministry settings. He is an avid sports fan, enthusiastic pontooner, a craft beer homebrewer/consumer, and patron of the arts.