Sunday, May 23, 2010


Recently I was thinking over John 1 and communication.

John 1:4- "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men."
John 1:5- "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."

Up until this point, in chapter 1, we see that God is. In Him is everything, and everything was made for Him... but His high existence seems too mystical and foreign for the evil of mankind to understand. Light is too brilliant for darkness.

So because God's desire is to engage the world, to save the world, and to give the world meaningful new life within His kingdom-- He sends John to bear witness of the Light. (1:7) He sent John to communicate with the world--to help explain the Light to the people living in the world.

However, God didn't stop there. He came HIMSELF in John 1:14-
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory..."
What does that mean? That the Word became flesh... This is literally saying that the Son of God took human form. God became a man--but also, the Word became a man. Literally. John 1 says the Word = Christ, both as God and as man.
What is this... This is God communicating!! There was a communication problem between God and the world, and the problem was: God was too high for the world. He was unknowable. The world could not understand God because God was not on the world's terms. It would have been like trying to teach calculus to a second grader.
And God cared SO MUCH about the world's salvation that He made Himself subject to the world and with all its authorities and troubles--[[[so that man could see what God would look like if He were to live out the life of an ordinary person on earth.]]] He showed us God "in practice." Everyday form--this was it.

The life of Christ showed the glory of the gospel among fallen people. His actions and relationships were meant to explain the entirety of God in terms that made sense to worldly men--the Word became flesh so that God could be comprehended by darkness.

Communication. You know, sometimes I make up words for fun. Webster's dictionary would not recognize them--and usually I'm pretty technical about spelling and correct grammar, etc. But at some point I realized that really, the only objective of language should be communication. At the most basic level, people speak and write to relay ideas. To get information. And so--if I make up a word--but you know what I meant--then it really shouldn't matter that it's technically not "correct." We have communicated. Goal accomplished.

When I read John 1, the extent God went to.. in order to communicate with the world stuns me. It involves an unbelievable amount of contextualization. In fact, John 1 should be perhaps the most convincing chapter in the whole Bible when it comes to discussions of contextualization in missions. GOD BECAME A MAN. This is how important it was for the world to understand... this is how much God desired for the world to understand.

That had to be a pretty ridiculous culture change. Going from being surrounded by heavenly beings and all kinds of perfection... who knows--maybe seraphs with their beautiful wings and voices... to earth? But the transmission of the message was so important... God came to save the lost! He became a man because He loved the world. His desire was so strong for the world to know who He was.

I would like us to think about missions, in light of John 1, with regard to contextualization. Is there any cultural distance that is too great for us to bridge, if God can take on flesh? If God will leave heaven, is there any culture too undesirable to make ourselves part of? How can we communicate the message in a way that our audience can grasp and relate to? How can we put God's love in the terms of a given culture?

The goal is connection and understanding... successful communication.