The missionary organization Word Made Flesh (WMF) celebrates nine areas in its incarnational ministry among many of the most poor and disadvantaged people around the world. The nine focal points of their ministry are intimacy, obedience, humility, community, service, simplicity, submission, brokenness and suffering. While we often celebrate community and service, the other seven areas are not ones we normally associate with celebration. When, for instance, was the last time you celebrated suffering or brokenness? Yet when we think of incarnational living, all of them are worthy of celebration. WMF defines them as follows:
We celebrate intimacy with Jesus to be our highest calling and our created purpose.
We celebrate obedience as our loving response to the grace of Jesus.
We celebrate humility before God and humanity.
We celebrate community as a means for discipleship and service.
We celebrate service as an expression of our fellowship.
We celebrate simplicity as a privilege in identification with Jesus and the poor.
We celebrate submission to Jesus, each other and the poor.
We celebrate brokenness as our responsibility in ministry among the broken.
We celebrate suffering as a willing sacrifice in serving Jesus.
In effect, these celebrations affirm our being like Jesus. When we look at his life we see that they all exemplify his life. His prayer life with his Father shows that they had an intimate relationship. In his obedience he humbled himself to be broken and suffer death on a cross. He developed a community of believers, which after his death and resurrection became the church. He was constantly serving others, lived simply with no place to call his own, and submitted his life to God.
While we celebrate these characteristics of Jesus, how often do we do so concerning ourselves? The world in which we live, though it does talk of community, frowns upon all of them. Its view of community focuses more on how we benefit from it than in discipleship and service. We are more likely to seek social status and comfort, to look to our own interests, seek to be served rather than to serve and seek to affirm our own self worth. We celebrate success and status and look with disdain at the broken ones among us. It is worth asking ourselves “If Jesus were to emulate me, would we still celebrate these nine areas of his life?”
We cannot celebrate these areas by giving lip service to them. They must become an integral part of our lives. As we grow in them we will find them closely linked together. As we realize our own brokenness in this sinful world, we will find our humility growing. As we become more intimate with God, our desire to obey him and submit to him increases. As we serve together our love of community grows. Service and suffering often are also related. As these characteristics begin to instill our lives, we will find that we are beginning to live incarnationally – that we are becoming more like Jesus.
One way to begin to celebrate these nine areas of incarnational living is by examining our own lives in each area, looking for one aspect of each which we can celebrate. As they then grow, continue celebrating them in community. We will find that some of them are easier for us than others. We may be stronger in those areas. But with others we may find ourselves struggling. With them we will need to ask God for help. Ask yourself “Which of these areas of incarnational living do I have the most difficulty with? What can I do to overcome it?”