Contextualization Pt 3 Jesus our Model

Posted: March 8, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Uncategorized

Jesus in the incarnation became like us, yet was so different from us. He was fully human, but without sin. He was virgin born. He was also fully God. Jesus became what he wasn’t by never leaving behind what he was. He had two natures. He identified with us in some ways, yet didn’t in others. Jesus cannot identify with us as sinners. Jesus was never a sinner, only a sin bearer. Jesus was tempted and tried like us, yet he never gave into sin. He is like us, but he is not. And I see this as a picture of what contextualization is. Some may call it incarnational ministry; I would prefer to call it contextualization. Jesus in the incarnation is not only our messiah, and message- He is our model. He becomes like us, he identifies, yet he remains distinct. 

We are to become like the person we are trying to bring to Christ, at the same time remaining who we are in Christ. As people sent on mission for Jesus, we are to try to keep the balance of over adapting and under-adapting. I think a helpful analogy comes from the movie Tangled. How many of you have seen this movie? 

There are two characters that can be two different extremes in reaching out to the world. One of them is a character by the name of Pascal. Now, Pascal is the man in the movie. He is loyal, always there, and willing to give his life for Rapunzel. But he is a chameleon. He can hide really well and become unnoticed. This is what some of us can look like if we take it too far. We can become so much like the world that our message is not distinct. This is not a problem locally but globally. Both locally and globally, people can have the temptation to over contextualize the gospel in a way that the gospel is adjusted, and changed. You become so much like that culture that you are trying to reach that you are really no different from their own worldview. 

The second character is Rapunzel. Now she has got some issues. I mean first of all her hair is ridiculously big. Not only that she has never been outside of this castle. She is under the impression that having contact with the outside world would be a bad thing for her to do. This is, sadly, how some Christians view the world. I love how Paul Wilson put this once time. He said “It is sorrowful to me that some Christians actually believe that the command in 1 John to “not love the world” is at odds with the way God “so loved the world” in John 3:16. Some Christians become too much like a chameleon while others become too much like a turtle. You either blend so no one can tell or hide so well in that shell that no one can see you.

In both cases our evangelism is unhelpful to the non-believer. If we conform too much, there will be little to distinguish us from the world. But if we don’t adapt the message, we will be so far from the felt needs of our audience that it will not be of any help. We want to be somewhere in the middle. Paul was becoming “all things to all men” while not “being under the law”, and never being “outside of the law of Christ”.  Jesus in the same way becomes like us yet is so distinct from us. We are to be “in the world” but “not of it”. There is a way that we can pursue a cultural context without participating and partnering with their sin. Don’t make yourself too much like them. At the same time, don’t make yourself too different from them. 

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