Thursday, December 05, 2019

Would we identify Christ as Christlike?

This week, people doing the Light the World service game with the Church were challenged to share on social media about someone they consider Christlike. I read a lot of wonderful tributes to a lot of wonderful people. It got me thinking.

If Christ were actually walking among us in blue jeans and a T-shirt doing His work, would we put a tribute up to Him on social media about how Christlike He is? Would we identify Jesus as Christlike?

We tend to identify people as Christlike who serve others, who fill their time doing good, and who were really nice and supportive and loving to the person who is making the tribute. We also tend to identify people as Christlike who are very good people who conform to our social expectations. I didn't see any tributes to ex-cons, homeless people, or recovering addicts, for example, even though they most certainly can be Christlike.

So would Jesus conform to our expectations? He did not conform to the expectations of of the Pharisees of what a righteous Jew looked like. He, in fact, is very nonconformist because His whole message is to overcome the world, and conformity is actually usually a worldly mandate (what is conformity but matching what the world around you expects of you?) (Hopefully the world around you is righteous. Not just looks righteous and tries to enforce the appearance, like the Biblical Jews and much of the modern world, but really -is- righteous.)

Another thing people identify as Christlike is being a loving support and a comfort. And Jesus did promise that He would not leave us comfortless. And He does love and support us. But He also discomforts us.  He pushes us to grow and stretch and become, often in ways that are uncomfortable. He pushes us to leave behind the most natural ways of doing things--the natural man is natural and easy, and we are supposed to not embrace that. He asks us to be humble and accept God leading instead of us leading in our lives. He tells us we're wrong and to repent, even if our beliefs are closely held and we are 100% sure we are right, and even if our actions feel fully justified and harmless to us. That's not fun. That's not comfortable. That's not easy. The only thing that makes it work at all is that we can be confident of his absolute, unfailing love for us (proven by giving up His life for ours), His authority, and His infinite knowledge. Without those three things, we could not submit to His tutelage, and we wouldn't want to, because it's not comfortable. Growth is not comfortable. Becoming is not comfortable. Metamorphosis is not comfortable.

The secondary question I came to in all this pondering was where I should have started in the first place. What does Christlike mean? Which is to say, "What is Christ like?" My parents told me that they are pretty sure Jesus can dance and knows all the funniest jokes. They didn't want me to think of Him as a weak, emasculated, wimpy, sweet quiet thing that spends all day holding butterflies on his fingertips and smiling sweetly. He's presented that way a lot. It dawned on me once that Jesus is smart and sensitive. Do we think of Jesus as smart? Do we consider that hundreds of people could hear Him speaking in outdoor meetings before mics were invented, so He was probably kinda loud? Do we recognize that He was a rebellious teenager in running away to teach in the temple when he was 12 and not telling His parents first? Doing His own thing all the time, His own way, against the grain and against what His society would prefer. He didn't seem to get less rebellious. Good thing He was right.

In learning about His mission and His ministry, do we fail to learn about Him as a person worthy of emulation? Obviously we cannot and need not and should not do His mission--we have our own missions in life. But we can obey Him, and we can emulate His person, if we can figure out what that is. We can list things from the scriptures and learn a lot, but the thing I came back to over and over was His invitation to "Learn of me." Do you know that "of" means "about," but it also means "from"?  And Jesus is clear that He wants us to know him (not about Him only) so that when we see each other, we know each other--we will see Him as He is and be like Him. He warns that people will think they knew Him and He will have to tell them, "I never knew you." Which is to imply that you never knew me, either, isn't it?

So what is Christ like? I think perhaps it would be wise to get to know Him, learn from Him, and find out.