About a week and a half ago I got to play Jesus in a little skit at a Vacation Bible School. Although it was very brief and only involved wearing a neat white robe and acting all Jesus-like in front of a few dozen kids, it sure got me thinking. I was realizing that what I was doing in front of those kids is exactly what I need to be doing, in a figurative sense, in front of the entire world. Being a Christian is all about being a representation of Jesus Christ.
A while ago I had been talking with an acquaintance over facebook when she said something very interesting. In regards to the ministry opportunities I’ve been engaging in she said something to the effect of: “Gosh! You’re so perfect! You’re like a mini-Jesus.” I was actually very touched by the comment, because it occured to me that even in spite of my numerous flaws, God’s still been molding me into a “mini-Jesus.” Although it was a simple conversation it definitely got me thinking about what it means to look like Jesus.
First off, I should explain that if I were to adequately surmise a description of Christ it would require more books than I could write in a life-time. That being said, I’ll only mention two things I’ve been working through personally over the last few months. I’ve been finding that being an example of Christ to people is pretty stinking difficult sometimes.
One of the things I’ve truly been convicted on pertaining to following Jesus’ example has been praying for my enemies. Although this is undoubtedly one of Jesus’ most memorable commands (Mat 5:44) it seems it is also one of the most ignored. When I gain a new enemy for whatever reason, my natural tendency is to get a tad snarky, and dismiss them in my mind as “people that don’t like me that I should stop thinking about.” Left to myself, I do my best to stay away from people that hate my guts, or if I’m feeling particularly abrasive, I’ll just do small little things to get on their nerves now and then. But then there’s this Jesus Who tells me I must not only be courteous to these people, but actually love them, and not only love them, but take time out of my day to pray for them. It’s been a concept, that although all too familiar, has been quite challenging for me to apply.
A few days ago I went to an amazing prayer meeting that some of my friends put together called Kingdom Come and through it God showed me the beauty of praying for your enemies. I was excited about the prayer meeting, but I confess, my heart lurched inside of me when they said that we were going to pray for the men that have been the driving force behind the sex-trafficking industry. As others mentioned later as well, I did not have any desire to pray for these men.
I see human trafficking as something so dispicable, so unhuman, that it should not even be conceivable. So praying for the men that are behind it felt so incredibly foreign. My heart burns with anger because of the vile things they have done. They do not deserve redemption. And yet I was reminded that I don’t deserve redemption either. As we prayed for these men, I felt my heart beginning to change. I was reminded that when you pray for someone you are more apt to forgive them. I still felt burning indignation against the evil, but I was moved with compassion for those men that are captives to their own sin. It has never been so difficult for me to pray for some one. It was a very difficult thing for me to do, but I am a much better man for it.
Much along the same lines as praying for my enemies, God has been working in my heart about loving the unlovable. I’ve been learning more and more that I am simply not capable of loving certain people. My only hope then is found in the empowerment that the Spirit of God brings. Without it, I am a very bitter, hateful person, but with it I can communicate the enduring love of a perfect God.
For a time I had grown complacent in my walk with God, standing on my own accomplishments, so to speak. I had been hearing plenty of encouraging comments about me and had become convinced that I was a loving person. I believed that I was one of the few noble types that can love anyone. Well, that little fantasy was smashed like a wine glass thrown against a brick wall.
I was pretty content believing myself to be a “good Christian” and all of that when one night I was at the ROC, a college-age Bible study I attend regularly. I was having a grand old time talking with the folks in my discussion group when in walks a fellow I hadn’t seen in years. Primarily because of his phyisical condition, I regret, that I found myself utterly repulsed by him. I am not proud of it, but I almost felt angry that he existed.
My response was so shocking to me that I almost had to leave the room and repent on the spot. I felt sick because I realized that I was not the loving guy I believed myself to be. Here was this fellow that was quite a decent chap, that I despised merely because of his appearance. I was humbled and surprised to find that my view of myself was tremendously inacurate. I still recall the words that echoed through my mind in that moment where there was only one prayer I could offer up to God. I said to Him: “God, love this person through me, because I can’t do it on my own. ”
I so badly desired to be like Jesus, but somewhere along the line I’d fallen into doing it in my own strength, thinking if I just worked hard enough, or acted nice enough that I could somehow muscle my way into sainthood. But that moment was so humbling to me in that it showed me that Jesus, and only Jesus, is capable of loving the unlovable. I firmly believe that loving the people that the world hates should be one of the marks of a Christian. But that moment reminded me that it cannot be done if He is not doing it through us.
All this to say, looking like Jesus is impossible without Jesus. Every Christian is a representation of Chirst, whether he knows it or not, whether his representation is accurate or not, but he can only be a good representation when Jesus is doing it through him. It is the cry of my heart that I would be an accurate picture of Jesus Christ to everyone around me. But I know I can’t do it on my own. That’s the beauty of the Gospel. We are sinners, and there is an all-powerful God that demands us to be perfect, but Jesus steps in and fills the demand for us. But thankfully, He does not let us stay sinners. He’s always at work, making us into more accurate representations of Himself. So that’s what I’ve been learning these days: looking like Jesus takes more than a beard and a white robe. Looking like Jesus takes the Spirit of God.