A reader writes:

I think it is that very paradox of "fully God and fully man" that keeps me Christian.

For me, it is immensely comforting to think that God took into Himself all the complexity and paradox of being human. And in the process suffering what was surely one of the most inhuman and unjust deaths possible for a human. For me, this is an answer to to dilemma of suffering and free will (whether it satisfies everyone else or not). God created the possibility of human cruelty by giving us free will, yet He was willing to suffer the consequences of that cruelty and injustice Himself - and by transcending the worst humans can do. So he opens the way for us to transcend that cruelty also.

The Epistle to the Philippians 2:5-8 states it most clearly:

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

I find that this passage is the essence of what keeps me a Christian.

I can't explain why Creation must include suffering and human evil as a necessary part of existence. But I see Christianity telling me that God was willing to take all of this mess and ambiguity and injustice into himself by becoming human.

For me, another expression of this same idea comes through the St. Thomas Aquinas's words from the Panis Angelicus: "The bread of angels becomes the bread of man . . . What a marvel! The poor, the servant and the humble / May consume their Lord."

And yet the Christian story does not end with the death and humiliation of God in Christ. Philippians continues:

"Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

To me, the same idea is stated differently (and applied to us, rather than Christ) in St. Francis' prayer:

"For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

I suppose this idea of the ultimate triumph of selfless love is not exclusively Christian, but because it is central to the Christian Gospel, I remain a Christian.

(Painting: The Supper At Emmaus, Rembrandt, 1628.)

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