WHAT’S TO BECOME OF BEING A CHRISTIAN?
EMBARRASSED AND EMBARRASSING. I’ve spent much of my youth and adult life being embarrassed by Christians. By this I mean those who call themselves Christian but do not believe that actually means becoming like--or relatively, approximately, hemispherically like--Jesus Christ. Therefore, they make no attempt to cultivate Christlikeness or act in either a personal-relational or social-political dimension in reflection of Jesus Christ. I guess I’d have to say that, for all my conviction about this and my own determination to become more like Jesus, I’ve grandly embarrassed myself more than a few times.
SETTLING FOR SOMETHING LESS. Quite a few Christians have given up on being like Jesus. They are settling for respectable religion. Many are getting into culture Christianity, which is, in fact, civil religion--and insidiously idolatrous. Others unwittingly use Christianity and the church to maintain family traditions and “values” without being measurably moved by the call to radical faith. And in myriad ways folks keep trying to fit Jesus into their secular lifestyles, world-shaped agendas, family plans, career interests, personal priorities, and unholy purposes. None of this reflects the Jesus of Scriptures or the costly grace that makes godliness in this life possible, clear, and accessible. For all our resignation or misguiding, the Scriptures nonetheless describe Christlikeness or godliness (use these terms interchangeably) as the way and the goal of being fully human.
FOLLOWING JESUS. In this connection, I was recently re-reading Dallas Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines and underlined these sentences: “We can become like Christ by doing one thing--by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ, we must believe he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced in order to remain constantly at home in the fellowship of his Father. Such a faith is strongly opposed today by powerful tendencies around us. Faith today is treated like something that only should make us different, not that actually does or can make us different.”
THE DARING GOAL. Richard J. Foster echoes Willard in this snippet from an online article: “The daring goal of the Christian life could be summarized as our being formed, conformed, and transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has come among his people as our ever-living Savior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend. He who is the Way shows us the way to live so that we increasingly come to share his love, hope, feelings, and habits. He agrees to be yoked to us, as we are yoked to him, and to train us in how to live our lives as he would live them if he were in our place.”
FOUR CLOSE QUESTIONS. I’m asking myself and our community of faith some “close” questions during July and August, a period of time in which we’re focusing on cultivating Christlikeness. Even with the personal embarrassment my current answers bring, it is not personal embarrassment that bothers me so much as choosing to live less of a life in regard to God, myself, and others than Jesus Christ has made possible, clear, and accessible. Be gentle with yourself if you choose to respond personally to these questions. May they prompt a renewed focus on him who is able to make us fully human, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
1. "What have I done intentionally in the past 7 days that reflects the character of Jesus Christ?" (Such as, forgiven someone for Christ’s sake, withheld judgment, responded kindly, acted beyond my own interests or needs, etc.). You may ask someone to tell you what of Christ they see in you and your actions.
2. "What am I doing/can I do with purpose and discipline each week that cultivates Christlikeness in me?" Make a realistic list, prioritize it, then start or renew it. Report back to your accountability group or keep a journal.
3. Read Romans 12:1-2. "How am I challenging or countering the routines, influences, messages, and patterns that tend to squeeze me into the world’s mold?"
4. "Am I ready and willing to put myself in the places where God’s grace can form me into the likeness of Jesus?"