Correct Christian doctrine has always held the firm belief that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures – human and divine. His human nature grew and matured in the way any human being would, where, as scripture tells us, he grew and matured in strength. He was not born as a super baby where he instantly took on the form of God in all aspects. He was so human in his appearance and form that it was just not possible that anyone who looked at this infant, without the working of any infusion of knowledge from God, would say without a doubt that this child was divine.
All of us have just one nature, which is human, but we are also called to divinity as well, meaning that we have a divine potential that can and should be nurtured and developed. Saying this has a double-edged effect because there is great caution by many preachers and even theologians to downplay this great promise in us. Those who are very conservative may hold the view that it can erroneously be the cause of an over inflated sense of self if each one of us walks around with a god-like ego. One only needs to look at the ways which society is paying the awfully high price of an exaggerated sense of the false self where each person seems to be overly interested in making himself or herself the centre of the universe.
But when this is taken in the right Christian sense where one rightly places God at the heart of life, one will grow this potential in a balanced way. One then grows right from the center, and not off-centered or eccentric, which is what “off centered” means in Latin.
What does it mean to be in touch with the divine potentiality in oneself?
It has something to do with seeing the Kingdom of God in our very lives, and being instrumental in ushering this in by our lives. Jesus gives us a very concrete listing of what can open the eyes of others to this kingdom when certain things begin to happen through us – lepers are cured, the dead are raised, the sick are cured and the devils are cast out. At the heart of all of this is the thread of a great overturning. What seems to be almost hopeless ends are now, in the kingdom of God, given an endless hope. In biblical times, those situations that Jesus lists give the ones caught in these mired moments very little reason for living. All of those who are in those are pushed further and further away from the heart of society to the edges and from the hearts of men and women.
When we are aware of our call to inner and outer godliness, those who for whatever reasons find themselves at the outer margins of society receive that necessary out-stretched hand of love and compassion to be brought back into the ambit of love and life. Vestiges of this is seen when forgiveness is given in exchange for hurts caused, when charity is extended as a response to selfishness and self-absorption, and when love is shown despite a refusal to love in return.
It doesn’t mean that living this way is easy by any means. It will no doubt be painful in small and large ways. It does mean, however, that one needs to swim against the currents of the world, where virtues like charity, compassion and forgiveness are at worst hardly extended, and at best, earned and deserved.
But daring to live this way does something extraordinary. It makes one godly, simply because this is what Jesus did as well. In his encounters with his adversaries, in the face of hatred and injustice, he responded with a directly opposing power, founded on the love of God himself, where forgiveness overpowers transgressions, compassion trounces hatred, and love prevails over fear.
And when the pain of living this way is felt, and we still persevere despite the aching soreness in our hearts, a pathway toward holiness and godliness presents itself before us. If we welcome this pain (not in a masochistic way, but with love and godly hope), we will then also feel the pain of the world in sin. This is what God did in the face of sin. He felt the pain of the world, and didn’t turn from it, but absorbed and welcomed it on the Cross. The only way that we can hold on to the pain– the pain of love, the agony of patience, of compassion and forgiveness, is when we know that we too are being held by the very One who went through this on a universal level on Calvary. In the face of hatred, Christ refused to hate in return.
I am a firm believer that when we dare to live this way in the face of evil, that we become not just agents of change to a godless society, but that we can powerfully grow that seed of divinity placed in us. Jesus did not make any one of us earn this amazing grace in extending his salvation to sinners. It was and always will be pure gift.
Our imitation of this ‘gift’ sensibility when offering to those who hurt, abuse and misuse our love is what makes us godly. It enlarges our hearts to allow us to live life not in small ways, but with a largess that gives us a divine character.
Posted by Fr Luke Fong at 6:00 AM