To be more like Christ . . . that is the goal of most Christians, the stated goal for how we ought to live. More like Christ. But I have found that what many people mean by that is to treat others with kindness, to be generous, to extend a hand to the broken and suffering.
To smile as you pass someone on the street and let others go before you. To be more like Christ when he welcomes the children, or when he speaks to the woman at the well, to be more like Christ when he eats with sinners and prostitutes and the unclean.
And I want that too.
Indeed he said that the two greatest commandments were to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and the second commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
To be more like Christ.
But Christ was not simply a force for social good and social welfare. These were evidence that His kingdom had come, that His kingdom was upon us, a new kingdom where the gentile and the Jew stood next to one another as brothers, the new kingdom where the powerful stood next to the despised, not in old hierarchies, for the old hierarchies had been broken just as the veil had been torn in two. At once he reminded all men and women that all bore the image of God, and thus all had worth. This new kingdom held a place for all of us.
More like Christ. The ones who say so often forget to speak about the other part of Christ, the other edge of the blade.
A boy who learned a skill and practiced dutifully for decades under the mentorship of a master.
A young man who connected with the spirit and subconscious and trusted the voice within, even when that voice led him to places others would not have the courage to go.
A man who journeyed into the desert, a man who climbed mountains and sailed across stormy seas in search of solitude so that he could be renewed.
A man who held strong to the singular mission that was given to Him, a mission that had to be prioritized over everything else in his life, a mission that cost him the chance to live a normal, docile life free from danger or the risk of poverty. The mission consumed him. All of his choices were made to serve the mission, not to serve the prevailing values of the day and age in which he lived. Those could be overlooked, ignored in the face of the mission, for this is why God had sent Him.
A man who lived with great patience. Decades passed before he turned water into wine, though he could have turned water into wine far earlier than he did. Patience for the mission. A willingness to endure time, to see the greater vision.
A man who respected those who came before Him—the fathers of his faith, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah. He did not dismiss the past as foolish or outdated or worthy of scorn, a people who were backwards in their thinking, but rather, he learned from the trials they endured and admired the courage they had shown in the face of danger. Abraham, who heard the call and built his life around the promise. Moses, who rose against Pharaoh with a staff and a stutter and demanded freedom for the captives, Moses who led a people across a desert for forty years and was rewarded with nothing but death, Moses who saw the face of God on Sinai and survived.
And Christ was a man unwilling to bend the knee and forfeit truth to the rulers of the day. He stood. He looked them in the eyes and defied their wishes. He looked them in the eyes because they did not rule him, he was here to serve something far greater than their man eyes and man minds could comprehend, and to submit the calling and mission for the sake of pleasing the wishes of fools would destroy everything about Him. He could not and so he didn’t. He loved them so much that he refused to bend to them. Let us be more like Christ.
A man who lived in a polarized world of Rome and rebels, two ways, one of obedient submission to the state, and one of armed rebellion, two ways of thinking, simple thinking, war, bloodshed, war, but He carried a third way. Not to lay down on the altar of Rome or to reclaim an old Kingdom, but to give birth to a new kingdom. New Jerusalem. Vision for tomorrow that you can carry in your heart today. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, give to David what is David’s, but He came with a third way, the way of the man made in the image.
A man who was willing to follow the mission and endure all the way to the end, defiant in the face of danger, committed until death took his breath. But a man like this cannot be conquered. For he will live forever.
So let us be more like Christ. Not only in how he loved others, but also in his defiance. In his courage. In his patience. In his vision. In his obedience to the calling given to him. In how he would not compromise the mission. In his pursuit of solitude in faraway places. In his resistance to simple polarities. In his work, his hard work. In his unwillingness to bend the knee for short-term approval.
Let us be more like Christ.