Am I like Jesus?
That seems like a very silly question. Of course I’m not like Jesus. Jesus is divine. Jesus was perfect. Jesus mixed the correct amount of love, forgiveness, truth, and judgment into everything he did. There’s no way I could ever be like Jesus.
Am I like Jesus?
I would like to think I’m sort of like Jesus. I would hope that I’m more like Jesus than the greater culture. I strive to be a beacon of light pointing toward God’s good creation even in the midst of a broken and fallen world. I know I’m not perfect, and I fail more than I want to admit, but still if there was a spectrum with Jesus on one end and Satan on the other I would hope that I’m much closer to Jesus than Satan.
The whole question is brought about because of what sometimes amounts to an aside from Jesus’s Sermon on the Plain recorded in Luke 6. In the midst of some very difficult teachings Jesus shares what he calls a parable.
“He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like the teacher.” (Luke 6:39-40)
It’s a somewhat self-explanatory line. Clearly, it’s never good for a blind person to be leading another blind person. The teacher is the one who has the knowledge to lead the disciple. At the same time, Jesus makes a very bold claim at the end. While the disciple is never above the teacher, a fully trained disciple will be like the teacher. If Jesus is the teacher, than one who is fully trained should be like Jesus. Not, one who is fully trained should be less than Jesus, or not even close to Jesus. One who is fully trained should be like Jesus.
Which again should drive one to self-examination: am I like Jesus?
In the ways that I think, in the actions I take, in the people I honor…Am I like Jesus? Do I love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me? Is my life characterized by righteousness, doing the right thing? Am I truthful? Am I kind? Do I hate evil and cling to goodness? Do I protect the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner? Do I speak truth to those in power?
Self examination is hard. Too often we discover that while we think we are like Christ, when we are honest with ourselves, we find places that we fall short. So, if we are not “like” Jesus completely, what can we do? A couple of options.
Study: Obviously, we can’t be more like Jesus if we don’t know who Jesus is, or what he did. We need to be students of the Word. Now is not the time for Bible illiteracy. It has become too easy, and too accepted, to skip Bible study time because of busyness, or to substitute fellowship time in place of Bible study time. As Christians, we must spend time studying the scriptures to better understand Jesus, who is God in the flesh. We won’t learn to be like our teacher if we are never taught.
Spiritual Disciplines: Information alone will not form us into Jesus clones. Along with information we need formation. The practice of the disciplines (fasting, prayer, meditation…) become windows allowing us to better see God. The disciplines place us in situations, or provide opportunities, for God to interact with us and form us into disciples. While information engages the head, formation engages the heart. Both are necessary to become image bearers of God. If we aren’t like Jesus, perhaps it’s because we haven’t slowed down our lives enough to be with Jesus.
Spiritual Practices: As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. While this is true while learning to play an instrument or a sport, it’s also true in discipleship. At times, we need to place ourselves in situations in which we have opportunities to grow. If we want to be more hospitable, we may need to force ourselves to invite more people over for dinner. If we want to learn to be more generous, we may need to force ourselves to give one possession away every week for a year. The author Mark Scandrette calls this the “Jesus Dojo” in his book Practicing the Way Of Jesus: Life Together In The Kingdom Of Love. Scandrette encourages his readers to intentionally create situations in which they will be challenged to grow deeper in faith and learn new practices, because we learn best through action, not just study. Thus, if we discover an area for growth, perhaps we should intentionally force ourselves into situations in which we can grow in that area.
Am I like Jesus? No, I’m not. But through intentional practices of both information and formation, hopefully, I will become fully trained and look like my teacher.