I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
In many traditions, but certainly not all, the Apostles’ Creed has become a meaningful way for Christians to codify what faith in Jesus Christ entails in its most basic form. And while there is nothing untrue in the Creed, it misses an enormous element of our faith—specifically in regards to the incarnational pulse of God and His people. To illustrate this point, lets zoom in upon the opening words of the second paragraph.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate…
Did you catch that?
The Creed goes straight from Jesus’ birth to suffering and death. In fact, the only thing between being “born of the Virgin Mary” and suffering “under Pontius Pilate” is a comma.
But that comma matters profoundly because there is a whole lot of living that occurred in that comma. That comma is giving the blind sight. That comma is proclaiming good news to the poor. That comma is breaking the chains of the captive. That comma is the lame walking. That comma is the deaf hearing. That comma is casting out demons. That comma is calming the storms. That comma is bringing the dead back to life. That comma is teaching us that another world is possible. That comma is being flesh and blood. That comma is dwelling among us.
That comma is, as Hugh Halter calls it, modeling “a new way to be human.” You see, the lie the serpent sold humanity in the Garden was that they could be like gods. Yet, are we not continually duped by the same lie? Whether we are aware of it or not, we continually buy into the hissing promise of the serpent that we ought not be human. Much of the suffering that humanity goes through stems from its futile attempts to ascend to something more than human. Are not expressions like “advancement” and “upward mobility” nothing more than congenial euphemisms for becoming god-like? From these pursuits to escape the bonds of being human, there is the emergence of war, inequality, and poverty. Perhaps the anxiety, sorrow, and discouragement that nip at the heels of people like a hell-hound, come from the fruitless efforts to be more than flesh and blood—when in all actuality, Jesus wants us to be more of flesh and blood.
It’s no wonder then that we fail to see both the incarnation and its implications for our lives. Hugh Halter concludes, “we miss the incarnation when we view Jesus only through His death on the cross instead of through His life in the neighborhood.” The comma is His life in the neighborhood, and that matters profoundly for our lives in our neighborhoods.