Dwelt Among Us

by Austin Channing Brown


"Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus" by Rembrandt

Ask me what is the most compelling Bible verse that sets my heart aflutter for issues of social justice and the answer may surprise you. There are a number of verses in the Bible that promote giving to the poor, caring for the orphan, setting the captive free. There is no shortage of verses about crossing cultures, welcoming strangers, and honoring the humanity of our enemies. While I commit myself to studying and living out these important instances of loving others, there is one passage of Scripture that really lights my flame for its beauty and revelation:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was nothing made. In Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

— John 1:1-4,14

Can we first pause at the beauty of this passage? "In the beginning was the Word" … "and the darkness did not comprehend it" … "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" … "full of grace and truth." Ah… I could revel in the beauty all day.

But it's also the revelation that keeps my fire for justice issues flaming.  The imagery of the Divine, of words stretching as they wrap themselves into the confining space of human flesh and squeezing through a physical labor of blood, sweat, and other fluids, I'm sure. All to enter this world of humanity, of dirt, of messiness, of division, of heartbreak, of rejection. How must it have been for the Divine to look on the world not from a holy place above the fray, but eye to eye, quite literally with skin in the game, watching the ways we treat each other, divide ourselves up, create hierarchies, build towers of Babel unto ourselves. How different it must have felt from home, from golden walkways and angelic beings, from hallelujah all the time.

But the Word didn't turn away. Didn't turn away from that ragtag group of disciples, passionate but often completely misunderstanding the mission. Didn't turn away from men or women. Didn't turn away from Jews or Gentiles, even those most unholy Samaritans or those oppressive Romans. Didn't turn away from the sick or the afflicted. Even the dead received an audience with the Divine. The Word crashed through social barriers, religious convention, and everyone's expectations.

That's why I fight for justice issues. Because the Divine modeled for me far beyond words, even words that I love, that I can't turn away from the messiness. The Word chose to dwell among us, but far from building an impressive throne right here, the Word wept, experiencing a range of emotions, rejections, disappointments, and awe known to the human condition. The Word made flesh full of grace and truth, right here in our midst, wrestling with the issues of that day. That's why I must wrestle with the issues of today. If the Divine didn't turn away, how could I?

God incarnate. God with us. God among us. What better reason could my heart desire?

Read more on Austin Channing's blog.

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