Week 4, Day 1: Like Jesus
I read in a book that a man called Christ went about doing good. It is very disconcerting to me that I am so easily satisfied with just going about.
- Toyohiko Kagawa
We were made to be like Jesus.
When we are born, we may bear some physical resemblance to our parents. We might have their eyes or their nose or their smile. We might look exactly like them when they were babies. But it is only as we grow that we really see how similar we are. Whether by choice or by chance, by nurture or by nature, we may grow to have our father’s temper or our mother’s sense of humor, our father’s love for being crafty or our mother’s appreciation for the outdoors. And as we grow, we will be faced with decisions to be like our parents or not to be like them — to adopt their faith as our own, for instance; or to leave behind a destructive codependency. We will also realize gradually the ways we have been shaped that we had no hand in.
Just as we are not born fully-equipped for life but learn how to talk and eat and cultivate our abilities and develop our emotional capacity, so also we learn how to live the Jesus way. Christians throughout the centuries have understood the spiritual life to be a journey, a pilgrimage. The goal of the Christian life is not just to assent intellectually to a set of beliefs but to walk with Jesus, who called himself “the Way” in John 14. The most common analogy used in the New Testament is that of growing up, from being born again to childhood to young adulthood to maturity.
Another way of understanding the stages of growth is that we learn to live, as the book’s subtitle reveals, (1) like Jesus, (2) with Jesus, and then (3) in Jesus. Development in spiritual maturity is never a straight line from one to the next — as much as we would like that — but more like a spiral, as we learn new tools and new realities, and also as we endure new setbacks and face new doubts. Today we will focus on the first stage: learning to live like Jesus.
As we learned last week, Jesus is our model for living, our example of what humankind was made for; and as his disciples, we are called to follow him, not simply to obey what he teaches but to imitate his life. The apostle Paul makes this clear when he writes, “Follow my example, just like I follow Christ’s” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Another way of putting it is that we are learning to live as Jesus would if he were in our place, to exhibit the same love, joy, peace, discernment, patience, wisdom, and attentiveness to God and the needs of others as Jesus did.
Obviously, this will seem daunting, perhaps even impossible, as we consider the distance between the life Jesus lived and the lives we currently live. But it is the witness of the New Testament that calls us to this journey of transformation and, even more than that, assumes that it is possible. And so, to quote an example given by Martin Luther King, Jr.:
If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.’
The same applies to us in our work and our play, at home with family or out with friends. To be a disciple of Jesus is to follow him and to help others follow him, to be like him in thought and word and action, to care about the things Jesus cares about. It is the challenge and the adventure set before us: learning to live as fully as Jesus did means learning to live as Jesus did all his life.
REFLECT & RESPOND
Head: From what you know of Jesus, what would it look like for you to be like him?
Heart: In what ways might your words, your actions, and your thoughts need to change to reflect more of Jesus? What is exciting about the prospect of being more like Jesus? What is daunting?
Hands: Think of someone you know personally who reminds you of Jesus. Share this with them as an encouragement. Feel free to ask what their biggest aid has been in their journey of faith.
By your Spirit, Jesus, help me to imitate you in all of my life.