SKIN

I’m obsessing somewhat about skin. At Christmas I wrote about the amazing revelation of God when his son was born in a stable in Bethlehem; and his name would be Jesus. He would grow up to say, “If you have seen me, you have seen my Father. I and my Father are one.” In other words, if you want to know what God is like look at Jesus in human form. Therein is found a pinprick window into the essence of the majestic, hard-to-fathom, mysterious Creator, God.

It has to be that way. How on earth can those who are created comprehend the One who created? Deep in the DNA of creation is a sense of something or someone greater. Almost every tribe, nation, and person in history has this ‘sense’ of the great unknown, a presence, a spirit, a god. Anthropologists and philosophers speak of humanity creating gods out of an inherent need to worship something. Often spoken with disdain as a sad commentary on those who require an invisible crutch to make it through the maze of life. Springboarding from ourselves at the center of the universe then such conclusions make some sense.

However, if there is indeed a Creator God, then unless he helps us to know him, we are lost in speculation, imagination, and perhaps even wishful thinking. Many dip into the Old Testament and reading of wars, rape, brutality, incest, and exploitation exclaim that God must be barbaric. How can he be the same as the one revealed in Jesus? That’s because the Old Testament describes the struggle of humanity to live together, make the rules, co-exist, share resources, while they essentially rule and call the shots. God was shoved to virtual irrelevance even though he kept reaching out through prophets, dreams, and occasional revelation. Rebellion and sin dominate the Old Testament.

Which is why the miracle and good news of Christmas and Christianity is that God so loved that he became like us, except without rebellion and sin. Through the life of Jesus, God in skin offers a revelation of humanity overcoming sin. The best definition I’ve found for sin is in the spelling; sin has ‘i’ at the center. When Jesus walked this earth ordinary people flocked to him primarily because he was not like the other religious leaders. The vast majority lived under the burden of religion, the oppression of legalism, and the constant defining of sin that they had to atone for with animal sacrifices in order to please a harsh and distant God.

Jesus broke up the word ‘sin’ and inserted the ‘k’. He destroyed the religious construct defining God by introducing love and kindness as the hallmark of his Father, our Creator. Instead of placing the onus on us to smarten up, God stepped in and invited us to join him as a father welcoming prodigals, a shepherd finding lost sheep and rejoicing, a master at a banquet offering us a seat, as a Savior atoning with his blood for our sins. The good news is hinged on God’s love and swings open with those same hinges lavishly oiled with grace.

So, why am I obsessing about skin? Because over the centuries not much has changed. I have spent much of my life within Christian contexts and a fair amount of years in the world outside the church. Most of the people outside churches don’t see a need, have negative views of religion, and define spirituality either as found in nature or a standard they could never live up to. Those within churches struggle with similar thoughts. If you scratch below the surface they also seldom feel good enough, often find church bearable but not madly inspiring, and certainly hide personal struggles to avoid the spiritual equivalent of Covid; shame.

Both groups would welcome encountering someone like Jesus who could recalibrate their awareness and experience of God. The key ingredient Jesus released in his speech, actions, teaching, and relationships? Kindness. Kindness is what love looks like when manifest through skin. Skin is the largest organ in the human body serving to protect, contain, enable sensitivity, and even beautify a body that could otherwise look grotesque. The person who feels excluded needs a person with skin to draw them in. The one who has no resources needs a helping hand with skin. The one who is discouraged or broken longs for a person with skin to walk alongside, to help them believe and hope for a better future. The one who secretly suffers shame needs to hear from someone with skin that they are not the only one who struggles and fails. The list is endless. Every teaching and doctrine relating to Jesus requires translation. It’s like a blind person learning to read through touch and braille – skin.

Consider how acts of kindness impact you. Traditional Christianity has way too much talk, teaching, and self-protection (Image management). Kindness is the key to unlock so much trapped inside the human heart. Even Paul underscored the fact that it is the love of God that draws people to change/repentance (Romans 2:4). And Paul was a man who’s life was transformed radically from legalism to grace. The kindness of Jesus reaches out to people before they deserve, realize, understand, or behave appropriately.

The kindness of Jesus looks like: Compassion (blind beggar, Luke18:35-43), servanthood (washing disciples feet, John 13:1-17), non-offensive discussion (Nicodemus John 3:1-21), encouragement (Simon Peter Matthew 4: 19), mercy and grace (woman caught in adultery John 8:11), silence ( Jesus before Pilate Matthew 27:11-26), courage ( Jesus on Cross Luke 23:34), generosity and compassion ( Jesus feeds 5,000 Luke 14:13-21), sensitivity (who touched me Luke 8:45-46), truth telling (John 5:24-30)… and much more…

Landing this blog, I hope with a light touch, and kindly. How much skin are you and I revealing in the way we conduct our lives and relationships? If those who know us could only see us – and never Jesus, imagine! Would they experience something of his kindness in the way we speak, encourage, engage, support, and befriend? Would that kindness take initiative, be generous (with money and time), seldom be offended, and always empathically listening? Knowing us, would anyone in their right mind want to believe that Jesus likes them too? Would they feel valued? When they fail and sin, does the skin we provide bring them back to forgiveness, healing, and even restoration? Would they be encouraged if we shared our imperfection, our struggles, areas where we continue to grapple? Do they encounter hope even when we don’t have all the victory or every answer?

Skin is the most significant organ in the Christian body/church. When it is filled with kindness the light shines, sin will not triumph, and there will be no need to hide in darkness. Every Christian would be attractively humble because they would be self aware and know that they too have fallen short… but for God they would have no hope. So be encouraged. God is good, he is kind, and his love embraces us before we recognize, deserve, or fully comprehend.

“Let those without sin/skin throw the first stone (John 8:7)”

This song by For King and Country is the cry of the human heart and the Good News!

“Love Me Like I Am”

I am a little unstable
Loose wires always getting tangled now
I am a little bit difficult
I can be a little self-critical now
I am a little unable
To put all my cards on the table now
But somehow You’re still with me

It’s amazing that You can
Love me like I am
And even when I can’t
You still love me as I am
Oh, I don’t know how You do it
And I know I put You through it
Yeah, it’s amazing that You can
Love me like I
Love me like I

Am, ooh
You love me like I
Am, ooh
You love me like I
Am

I am a little uneven
In need of a little more healing now
Yes I am
And I feel a little unfixable
You’re nothing short of a miracle now
Somehow You’re still with me

It’s amazing that You can
Love me like I am
And even when I can’t
You still love me as I am
Oh, I don’t know how You do it
And I know I put You through it
Yeah, it’s amazing that You can
Love me like I
Love me like I

Am, ooh
You love me like I
Am, ooh
You love me like I
Am, ooh
You love me like

It’s amazing that You can
Love me like I am
Even when I can’t
You still love me as I am
Yeah, I don’t know how You do it
And I know I’ve put You through it
Yeah, it’s amazing that You can
Love me like I
Love me like I am

John Cox

Christian Author

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