Christians should not treat Him as two different people, one human and one divine
By Deacon Bob Hunt
There are two great temptations that face Christians that I would like to speak to. The first, and it is almost an expectation of the culture, is to relegate one’s faith to the practice of personal, private devotion. It is all very good to believe in your heart in Jesus as Lord and savior. But to take that faith and actually try to influence or have any impact on society, or even your small corner of the world, is too much. It’s rude, distasteful, and intolerant of others. Furthermore, why should one? Jesus is my personal Lord and savior. It’s me and Jesus. I don’t bother reading the news or getting too involved in what’s going on in the world around me, because I know that Jesus will return (hopefully today!) and make it all right. And, if He doesn’t return before I die, then I’ll stand before Him as an individual to be judged according to my deeds and cleansed of my sins. This world is not my home. I am in the world but not of it. My focus is on the world to come.
The second temptation is to transform the faith into a social-justice project. Jesus demands that we be good stewards of the earth, of our resources, and that we care for those on the margins, those who have dropped through society’s cracks for whatever reason. To care for those in need is what Jesus wants. He gives little regard to how much time I spend in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. How is that going to change the world? At the Last Judgment, Jesus will judge us on whether we fed Him, clothed Him, cared for Him in sickness, or visited Him in prison. He will not ask how many rosaries we prayed or eucharistic processions we participated in. The political order is inherently unjust, racist, and oppressive. It must be changed, and in the name of God it is our duty to do so (some would add, “by any means necessary!”). This world is my home. I am both in the world and of it. My focus is on this world.
Obviously, both temptations are masterpieces of demonic connivance. They demand that we choose between worshiping Jesus or serving Jesus and paint the two as mutually exclusive. Obviously, we are to worship Jesus in personal prayer, in liturgy, in any number of the plethora of devotions with which the Church has gifted believers through the ages. Especially, I think, in the prayerful reading of Scripture. Obviously, we are to serve Jesus in our care of the earth and its resources, and in service to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and especially in living faithfully the commitments we have made in His Name, in marriage and family life, in religious life, or in holy orders.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14a). It is the faith of the Church that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He is fully human and fully divine. He was not a god who was pretending to be human, but God who became human. He was not a man who achieved divinity, but a man who was God incarnate from the moment of His conception in His mother’s womb. He is Emmanuel—“God with us,” like us in all things, except sin.
I think we are tempted to distinguish too much between the humanity and divinity of Jesus, often treating Jesus as two different people, one human and one divine. And the one we like better is the one who influences our Christian living. This is preposterous. When Jesus was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary, He was conceived and born fully human and fully divine. He represented the whole of human experience, the whole of human reality. We are humans called to share in the divine nature. Jesus was the divine nature made human. As He became like us in all things except sin, so we are to become like Him in all things, cleansed of sin. So, we worship Jesus as our divine Savior, and we serve Him in the service of our brothers and sisters, because He was one of us.
Worship Jesus and serve Jesus. Serve Jesus and worship Jesus. Because if you’re trying to worship Jesus, but you aren’t serving Jesus, it may, in fact, be someone else you worship. And if you’re trying to serve Jesus, but you aren’t worshiping Jesus, it may, in fact, be someone else you serve.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Deacon Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville.