Jesus enters the world as we know it as it truly is. He enters a very human world, a world with human evil, human foolishness, and human suffering. He did not enter a sanitary world, or even a sanitized community of believers. If you've ever read the gospels, it's clear that the people of God and the land in the first century were both thoroughly polluted and in need of cleansing. Jesus came into that world--the world of evil, foolishness, and suffering as we still know it today.
By entering this world, Jesus was willing to get his hands dirty in the muck and filth of humanity, and even suffer at the hands of the wicked. His suffering then led to scandal, exile, and death. From this paradigm, spokesmen for the Christian cause sometimes say that Jesus is connected with all of humanity's suffering, and that the incarnation gives meaning and purpose to "our" suffering.
This is what I want to comment about.
I want to make very clear from the outset what Jesus did not do in making this "connection". What he did not do was suffer for the sake of suffering itself, or welcome scandals for the sake of being associated with the scandalous. He suffered because he preached repentance from sin and faith toward God in a world so perverse and lawless that God's very own people would crucify him for it. Jesus was scandalized because he exhorted his own people to forsake the perverse traditions of that generation and of their fathers. He was scandalized because he preached against the moral relativism of his generation, and led people to embrace the singular way of truth, justice, mercy, and peace.
It is purported that Jesus wasn't afraid to hang out with the scandalous. Jesus was willing to "connect" with prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners. From this, allegedly, we learn that we who also live scandalous lives have this same connection with Jesus, because that's what his ministry was all about: connecting with the scandalous. He even suffered the shame of a scandalous life and death in order to show the world how purposeful and meaningful "our suffering" is.
Depending on what one means by that, that could be complete ethical nonsense.
Jesus' solidarity was not with fools or suffering-people in general, but rather the faithful first century remnant of his disciples who were willing to follow him and suffer for righteousness' sake, for the sake of the truth spoken by his prophets and just-ones. His solidarity is with those who turn away from evil and foolishness, and turn toward Him, never looking back. His solidarity is with those who have "washed their robes so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates" (Rev. 22:14). Their robes were bloody, and needed to be washed, because they were willing to be martyrs for the sake of the truth spoken by Jesus' prophets and just-ones. Their robes were spotted by the sins and injustice of others who hated Christ and his following of disciples. If our lives as Christians remain scandalous for the sake of actual injustice and falsehood and foolishness and evil, Jesus will say to us on the day we bow before his throne, "Outside with the sexually immoral and murderers and adulterers, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood" (Rev. 22:15).
In other words, Jesus did not enter a very human world of evil, foolishness, and suffering in order to show perpetual solidarity with the lowliest of sinners. He stooped down to that low level to wash the feet of his disciples, not the feet of disciples of Apollo, Cybele, Diana, Baal, or even Caesar. He stooped low to wash his disciples, and to make better disciples. He stooped low and showed solidarity with the lowliest because he loved humanity, and wanted humanity to receive purification from him. Jesus did not and does not love sin, and by extension, those who habitually and unrepentantly sin (I John 3:6, 9). Sure, if we say that we have no sin at all, then the truth of Jesus Christ does not dwell in us (1 John 1:8-10). But the belief that we will not or cannot sin at all is a very different belief than the one revealed by Christ's apostles, that we ought not and are now able to not make a habit of it. The incarnation gives meaning and purpose to that very specific type of suffering--a cruciform one, one which looks like Jesus's suffering through obedience. If his disciples suffered for the sake of their own injustices, their own falsehoods, and their own foolishness, that suffering is their own fault, and Jesus wants nothing to do with it. But if we suffer in his name (i.e. as "Christians") for what is truly just and right, and for what is absolutely true, and for what God has revealed to be wise and good, then Jesus welcomes us to the tree of life.
But that's part of our problem, right? Instead of conforming our thoughts and our ethical standards to God's revealed standards, we question his revelation. In our own subtle, serpentine manner we think, "Did God really say that?" Instead of forsaking what God demands us to forsake--our foolishness, our relative and lax moral standards--we want Jesus to accept our foolishness and laxity. We want to remain what we are now, and we want Jesus to accept us for what we will always want to be, even if we want to remain infantile. When we read the gospels and think that Jesus wants solidarity with the foolish, sin-filled world he entered, we are the ones who are mistaken. He does not. Jesus entered this fallen world in order to raise sinners up with him, from death to eternal life. He stooped very, very low, not to "connect" with us where we are, in order to remain where we are, but to tell us face to face, eye to eye, in flesh and blood, "Repent!" and "Go and sin no more!"
That brings up the last problem I want to address: guilt and pity.
I can't tell you how many Christians I know who wallow in their own guilt and self-pity. They constantly sin and fall into foolish ways of thinking; and they admit it; they wallow in it. They think they can't escape it. And to claim otherwise--so it is thought--is blasphemy; it's allegedly contrary to "the gospel."
But is it really contrary to the gospel, to think and live as though you have been delivered from slavery to sin and foolishness? Is it really contrary to the "good news" that Jesus says to us, "Go and sin no more!", and he really expects us to do that? I don't think so. And I think that it's the height of spiritual arrogance to excuse ourselves from trying, as though no matter how hard we try we're not actually able to do so.
But then one might respond: "Because we will sin in the future, at some point, we might as well rest content in being who we are, wretched fools saved only by the grace of God."
Here's what I have to say to that: Grow up. Stop thinking like a child, and forsake such childish ways of thinking. If he saved you from your sins, he delivered you from enslavement to sin. You don't have to wallow in some imaginary bondage to sin. If you're still enslaved to sin, as though there is nothing you could do to stop it, then Jesus did not save you. You don't have to remain a fool, and he doesn't want you to.
Now, someone might respond to these claims of mine by suggesting that Jesus expects perfection from us. And to that I respond, "No". That, to me, seems like another excuse to rationalize away one's need to "sin no more." The truth revealed in Scripture is that Jesus expects us to grow up. Jesus expects all of his children to increase in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man, just as he did (Luke 2:52). If we have true solidarity with him, that's what our lives ought to look like. Once "saved" from bondage to sin, we mature from childish ways to mature, godly ways. Jesus expects us to become equipped for the work of ministering to other sinners in need of godliness, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of "mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Ephesians 4:12-14).