The First Letter of John, read this week at the end of the Christmas season, counters the claim of some early Christians that the Word did not become flesh, that Jesus did not become human like us. They thought it unworthy of God to assume our lowly humanity.
The dissidents were either Docetists, people who rejected the belief that God could become human, and so Jesus would seem to be human but was not, or they were Gnostics who believed that Jesus pointed to a greater power still to be revealed.
They turned away from a belief that “the Word was made flesh.” God was not born, nor live hidden for years, nor teach and do mighty deeds in Jesus Christ. God did not experience death and rise again in Jesus, his Son. The all-powerful God would reveal himself in a better way than this, they believed.
Invoking the authority of the Apostle John, who saw Jesus and believed, the letter condemns that opinion and those who express it. Keep away from them, it says. The Word became flesh and we see his glory reflected in his humanity. The gospels this week, from the Gospel of John, show John the Baptist pointing Jesus out to his disciples as the One who is to come.
Rejecting the Incarnation affects the way we think about ourselves, the letter continues. If humanity can’t be united to the divinity, then we can’t be called “children of God.” But we are God’s children, John says, even now in the flesh.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.”
Jesus Christ was finally revealed in his resurrection. We wait for that moment ourselves, when we hope to share that mystery “through him, with him, and in him.” Not only shall we see him as he is, but we shall see our flesh, our lowly humanity, graced by his resurrection.
Let’s not forget: “we are God’s children now.