Clement Yeung

After watching the movie “Honey, I shrunk the kids!”, I was once again reminded of the relevance of size in our daily lives.

To many, size implies importance, power and reliability. The bigger the size, the more weight it carries and hence more importance. The same mentality is seen among the Christian churches too. The bigger the building, the larger the congregation, the more respect the church gets. The size of the church budget may also play a role. It is sometimes called the syndrome of size.

When the disciples heard about the kingdom of heaven, they thought Jesus was talking about an earthly empire and they started asking who among them was the greatest. Presumably that person would assume the most powerful position in Christ’s empire. Even the parents began to lobby for their children. “Jesus, when your kingdom comes, let my sons sit next to you, one on your right and the other on your left,” pleaded a mother.

Jesus showed them a child and explained to them that the door to heaven is very small. Only those who are extremely small can get in. Even then, you cannot take anything inside with you. His advice for them was: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3) The modern paraphrase would go like this: “You must be shrunken first.”

What did Jesus mean? How do we change and get shrunken?

We have to use a little imagination and extend the metaphor in the movie.

Imagine a shrinking machine. It does not use ordinary electricity. Instead it uses a kind of powerful shock wave called ” humility”. It can shake people to their core and change them inside out. In the process, it also creates a very uncomfortable feeling in their whole system. It makes them flushed, nauseated and even angry. The way it works is that if they tighten up when connected to the humility machine, such as making a first or wanting to fight, it will automatically double its voltage. Ask anyone who have used the machine, they will tell you that it is never a pleasant experience.

But, like Jesus said, it is the only way to get small enough to go through the entrance into the heavenly castle. Indeed, according to the epistle to the Philippians, the apostle Paul tells us that, in His incarnation, Jesus went through the humility machine Himself.

Why is it so unpleasant or even painful to go through the shrinking machine? Why is it so difficult to become like a child?

To become like a child is to give up control, to lose our independence, to be stripped of our titles, to be weak and vulnerable, to be helpless and powerless. All along, the surrounding culture teaches us to be strong, tough, independent and self-sufficient. To become like a child would be counter-culture. That is why some people are infuriated by weakness; they are disturbed by the cry of a child. Weakness awakens hardness and anger in them. That is why so many people are afraid of getting aged.

To be small, to be sick, to be aged or to be dying are stages of powerlessness. They appear to us to be anti-life and so we deny them. That is why it is so difficult for us to become like a child.

Yet if we deny our weakness and the reality of death, if we want to be powerful and strong always, we deny a part of our being and we live in an illusion (1). It is only when we accept our weakness and vulnerability that we become truly human. In other words, to become like a child is to be truly human.

When Jesus was born as a child in the manger, He became truly human.

He not only showed us what true humanity is, but also demonstrated what true humility is. “After being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (2).

True humility is no small matter. Humility comes from the Latin word “humus” which literally means earth, dust or mud. The humility machine reminds us where we come from and where we will go.

To put incarnation in a more contemporary way, we may say, “Honey, God shrunk His only begotten Son!”

References:
(1) Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, p.40
(2) Philippians 2:8

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道成肉身:當代詮釋

楊世禮醫生撰 / 以恩譯

看完電影《親愛的,我把孩子們縮小了!》之後,我再次想起個兒的大小在我們日常生活中的重要性。

對許多人來說,大小意味著重要性,力量和可靠性。尺寸越大,承載的重量越大,因此也越重要。在基督教教會中也有類似的心態,建築物越大,會眾越多,教會就越受尊重。教會預算的規模也可能起一定作用。因此有人稱之為大小綜合症。

當門徒們聽說天堂時,他們以為耶穌在談論一個地上的帝國,於是他們開始詢問他們當中誰是最偉大的,以為這人將在基督帝國中擔任最有權勢的職位。甚至他們的父母也開始為他們的孩子進行關說。 “耶穌,當祢的王國來臨時,讓我的兒子們坐在祢旁邊,一個在祢的右邊,另一個在祢的左邊,”一位母親如此懇求。

耶穌帶他們去看一個小孩,並向他們解釋通往天堂的門很小,因此只有很小的人才能進入。到那時,誰也無法攜帶任何東西進去。祂對他們的建議:“除非你改變並變得像小孩子,否則將永遠不會進入天堂。” (太18:3)現代的措辭應該是這樣的:“你必須先縮小。”

耶穌是什麼意思?我們如何改變並縮小?

我們必須運用一點想像力,並擴大電影中的隱喻。

想像一下收縮機。它不使用普通電力。相反地,它使用一種稱為“謙卑”的強大衝擊波。它可以動搖人們的核心,並徹底改變他們。在此過程中,整個系統會產生非常不舒服的感覺。會使他們臉紅,噁心,甚至生氣。它的工作方式是,如果他們在連接到謙卑機器上時緊繃起來(例如緊握拳頭或想打架),它將自動使其(電)壓加倍。詢問使用過這種機器的任何人,他們都會告訴你,這絕不是令人愉快的經歷。

但是,就像耶穌說的那樣,這是使自己變得足夠渺小,以通過進入天堂入口的唯一方法。的確,根據腓立比書信,使徒保羅告訴我們,耶穌在道成肉身的過程中經歷了謙卑的機器。

為什麼通過收縮機會如此令人感到不愉快甚至痛苦?為什麼要變得像個孩子那麼困難?

想要變得像孩子一樣,就是放棄控制權,失去我們的獨立性,被剝奪我們的頭銜,變得軟弱無力且無助。一直以來,周圍的文化教會我們堅強,強硬,獨立和自給自足。變回像個孩子將是反文化之舉。這就是為什麼有些人被軟弱的人所激怒,他們因孩子的哭泣而困擾。軟弱會喚醒他們裡面的剛硬和憤怒。這就是為什麼這麼多人害怕變老的原因。

變小或生病,變老或垂死都是無能為力的階段。在我們看來,它們是反生命的,因此我們否認它們。這就是為什麼我們很難回轉像個孩子。

但是,如果我們否認自己的軟弱和會死亡的現實,如果我們想始終強大而堅強,我們就是否定自己存在的某一部分,我們生活在一種幻想中(1)。只有當我們接受自己的弱點和脆弱性時,我們才能成為真正的人。換句話說,成為像一個孩子就是成為一個真正的人。

當耶穌降生在馬槽裡時,祂成為一個真正的人。

祂不僅向我們展示了真正的人性,並且展示了真正的謙卑。 “被發現是以一個人的樣式出現之後,祂謙卑自己,順服了死亡,甚至死在十字架上!” (2)。

真正的謙卑絕非易事。謙卑來自拉丁語“ humus”,字面意思是土,塵土或泥土。謙卑的機器提醒我們,我們來自哪里以及將要去哪裡。

為了以更現代的方式體現道成肉身,我們可以說:“親愛的,上帝縮小了祂的獨生子!”