Hijra to Christ

Scripture is an epic describing the immense and sacred journey which God calls us fulfill, individually and communally. Even the cosmos participates. The world began in chaos, “formless and void” (Genesis 1:2) as unlike God as anything we can imagine so God created order. God took unified objects and separated them into Creation. From the waters, God made sky and sea. From light/darkness, God created day and night. From the light, the Sun and Moon. The combined seas and land he separated. He created fish out of the sea and beasts and plants and humans out of the land. Humanity into male and female. Humanity is very good and innocence but naive. So God separates humanity from the Tree of Life and humanity must walk between life and death. Even humanity’s language becomes separated at Babel. 

The rest of the First Testament features God and humanity grappling to bridge these separations. Over and over God attempts reconciliation through separation. God separates Noah, Abraham, and then Moses from their people to start anew. “Changing his mind,” (Exodus 32:14) God expands from individuals to the entire nation of Israel whom God separates from the Egyptians and Canaanites. God gives Torah to bridge the separation between God’s perfection and humanity’s sin to “be holy as I am holy.” God separates the Sabbath to be holy. God gives the Tabernacle and Temple for Heaven to intersect Earth. God establishes the Levitical priesthood as a separated tribe to join God and Israel. But Israel never attains God’s ambition. God sends judges, kings, angels, and prophets; God sends visions, prophecies, discipline, and Exile but still humanity flounders. 

In the New Testament, God has another approach or rather, God fulfills the first approach. Instead of buildings, laws, and prophets, God becomes the bridge between God and humanity in the form of the Son of God. Jesus fulfills the Torah (Matthew 5:17); Jesus fulfills the Temple (John 2:19); Jesus fulfills the priesthood (Hebrews 7); Jesus fulfills the kingship (Mark 12:35-37) Jesus fulfills the angels (Hebrews 1) and the Sabbath and on and on. In the Incarnation, Jesus joins God and humanity. Because Jesus’ father was not Jewish, Jesus joins Jews and Gentiles.  In the Crucifixion, Jesus joins God and sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). In the Resurrection, Jesus joins life and death. In the Ascension, Jesus joins Heaven and Earth.

But it is not enough that Jesus does these things. We must do them also. As Jesus was born the Son of God, Jesus calls us to be born again as children of God. As Jesus carried the Cross, Jesus calls us to carry our cross. As Jesus died, we must die. “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” (1 Corinthians 6:14, NASB) Jesus is called the firstborn among the dead because others will follow. Even as Jesus will judge the living and the dead, Christians will judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2).
“I am in the Father and you in me and I in you.” (John 14:20, NASB) The mission of all Christians is become brothers and sisters of Christ, to metaphorically become Jesus. In the Orthodox Church, we quote St. Augustine, “God became man so that man could become god.” (Note, “god,” not “God.”) For some reason this is controversial to Christians. It should and must not be! Rejecting this is rejecting Christ. 

The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’ Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your [Torah],* “I said, you are gods”? If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”—and the scripture cannot be annulled—can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand* that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. (John 10:31-38, NRSV, emphasis mine)

Jesus was rather shy about being divine; here is a rare exception. Jesus does not claim his divinity as something unique but quotes Psalms 82 that all believers are gods. Jesus rests the case of His own divinity by arguing the Scriptures declare humans can be divine. This not only lifts of Christ, but lifts up ourselves as well. If the Psalms and Jesus call us gods, we are gods. Not that we are identical to God. Jesus also bases divinity on His good works which are perfect. We are gods and like God only as far as the righteousness of our works. The works of Jesus were completely good, making Jesus completely God. But our works are not always of God.

The pilgrimage to Christ is essentially gender agnostic. Females, males, eunuchs, and intersexuals are all called to the same path. Let that be enough. Your gender will neither propel you or withhold you from the Kingdom. Woe to anyone who says “You must live as a man/woman” or “You must express your gender identity” before you may join God’s Kingdom. It would be better you die this moment than build this stumbling block. (Matthew 18:6). The Church would be right to drop her gender/transgender obsession altogether. “There is no longer male and female; you are all one in Jesus, Messiah.” (Galatians 3:28)

This does not mean gender is worthless or irrelevant. It does mean we must not make gender an idol, equal or above God. Gender is part of Creation and just like the rest of Creation, gender is a symbol meant to point us towards God. If gender becomes an obstruction, better we chuck it out than be led astray. If that Catholics thought icons got in the way, better they give them up. If Protestants thought Penance did more harm than good, get rid of it. Some churches believe expounding on race or or age or physical and mental handicaps helps their faith. Other think the opposite. Anything can boon our faith, if done correctly. Anything will handicap our faith done poorly. If we have eyes to see and humility to learn, gender, icons, race, or anything will enhance our life. Recognizing that gender is present through every step, creation, splitting and re-joining and make our hijra to Christ that much easier, that much deeper, stronger.