Anthropomorphism is a big word. Not only is it big, it is a combination of two words in Greek – anthropos (man) and morphe (form). When used in Christian understanding, it speaks of our God who revealed Himself to us through human form and attributes, taking on human characteristics. It is because of His willingness to do so, that we are able to comprehend what it is to be loved by God. As the song goes, ‘Love was when God became a man.’
Sometime last month, Theodore, Helen and I arrived home to our 11th floor HDB flat, only to find, crouching near our closed front door, a little bird. Observing the heavy downpour outside, we deduced that it probably was injured, and was in fact shivering from the cold because of the strong winds.
Our immediate natural instinct was compassion. But figuring that we would not know what to do, we had to leave the tiny bird outside. About an hour later, Theophilus came back, greeted by the little bird that was still outside.
Together, we decided that we must do something. Soon, armed with fruits (papaya & grape) and a plate of water, we placed these in front of the little bird. As it did not move a single bit, whether to the food or away from us, we know that it must surely be injured. Our next move was to think of something to coerce it to eat and drink. Soon, Theodore came up with the idea of a box, cushioning it with newspapers, placing the fruits and water in the box. Next, with a cloth in his hands, Theophilus tried gingerly to hold on the bird to help place it in the box. Sadly, as soon, as his cloth touched its body, it skipped off a metre or two away, obviously thinking that he was up to no good. (For the rest of the story, speak to any of us).
I had occasion to reflect on that incident that bothered me. To me, the whole trouble for us was that we were not able to communicate our love and compassion to the little bird. If we had a bit more knowledge of birds, just perhaps, we would be offering the right kind of food and drink. Or if we had got a bird-lover or bird-handler, they would certainly have been able to do a much better job. But if we can be ‘morphed’ or ‘transformed’ into a bird, being like one of the same kind and ‘speaking’ the same language, ‘singing’ the same songs, it surely would have done the job. As I thought deeper, I have been reminded that this was exactly what happened when God became flesh, and dwelt among us, communicating His love for us in the clearest possible way.
Praise God that in His act of love toward us, He condescended to be like one of us, communicating without a shadow of doubt the depth of His love. For Scripture reminds us of Jesus in Phil. 2:6-8, ‘6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!’
For the world today, Christianity is equated with Christmas – period. But of course, this needs to be corrected. The humble birth of Jesus in the manger, in itself a powerful portrayal of the love of God is only half the story told, for it ultimately culminated at the cross and the resurrection. John Petersen’s wonderful song, ‘In the image of God,’ perhaps echoes what is upon the table of our hearts –
I’ll never comprehend redemption’s plan. How Christ could condescend, to die for man. Such a Saviour I’ll praise, to the end of my days as I up-ward on-ward trod in the image of God.
Elder Richard Lai