I recently gave a lecture at a graduate college and was struck by the words of a student there. He was wondering aloud whether we can say anything with much certainty as Christians. Given that previous generations have so often got it wrong on issues like race and gender, how could we be sure we’re not falling into the same mistakes on different issues? It’s a sobering question and one that should give us plenty of humility as we seek to make our way in our faith.

But it’s also a question that gives way to a more assured answer. Responding to this sort of uncertainty, theologian Stanley Hauerwas observed that “we don’t know everything, but we have enough to go on.” Our faith is a bit like marriage. There is a certain naiveté about standing in church in our relative youth and making grave promises about a shared but unknown future. Much complex uncertainty lies ahead, but in our love for each other we have enough to make a start.

So what do we have to go on in our faith? In a word, it’s the Incarnation. Rather than our faith consisting of abstract ideas and beliefs, like a philosophical work or political manifesto, it has taken shape in human form—in the flesh and blood of Jesus’ body, in the rhythms of his life and teaching, and in the world-changing significance of his death, resurrection and ascension.

The Apostle Paul sums this up in his amazing description of Jesus in Colossians: “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end.”

So what does all this mean for us? Most significantly, although we can adhere to ideas, we can actually follow the person of Jesus. Just as Paul did before us, we can walk in his footsteps and model our own lives on his. In Jesus, the invisible God becomes visible. So there is at least something very right about the impulse behind the “WWJD” movement and ones like it. In Jesus we see God in the flesh, working out His purposes in the world.

The student in my lecture was right, in part. God in His wisdom has not shown us everything, but He has given us enough to go on, and He’s given us each day as a field to play on. One day we will see in full, and until then we see in part. In the revelation of Scripture, in the community of the church, in the breaking of bread, and through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, the invisible God is made visible in our lives.

Blessings,
Rev Jonny Grant