Incarnational Thinking

A lot of time and effort is expended by mission agencies to train their candidates on how to bridge the culture gap and live incarnationally in the country to which they are being sent. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary statesman of centuries past. was among the first to live and look like the people he sought to win to Christ in China. Incarnational thinking is modeled after Jesus Christ who took on flesh to become one of us; to look like us, to live like us.

Sort of.

In one area Christ was never like the people he chose to look and live like. He never sinned. In that he did not model us.

So as I read this morning's passage in 1 Peter I took notice of the number of times Peter called his readers "strangers" while he was busily exhorting them not to be the same as the people around them, but to be different. He begins his letter: "To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. . ." –1 Peter 1:1, NIV. A little later he writes: "Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear" –1 Peter 1:17, NIV. Then, in 1 Peter 2:11, NIV, Peter says: "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul."

Peter was writing to people who were being persecuted because they were different. They were different because they were followers of Jesus. They lived according to God's standards rather than according to the dictates and styles of the world around them.

And that got them into serious trouble. Peter commiserates with their suffering but continues to encourage them to suffer for being followers of Christ. He tells them to: "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" –1 Peter 2:12, NIV.

Incarnational thinking for the believer is not assuming the culture and customs of the people around us; rather it is assuming the culture and customs of the One we follow–Jesus Christ. He took on flesh for us and we take on righteousness for Him.

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