There's more to being Christlike in this world than simply doing the things that Christ did, although that is certainly part of it. We must also, however, labor to do them in the way in which He did them.
For example, Christ spoke God's truth at every turn. When He was being tempted in the wilderness, He was able to quote to the tempter the Scriptures. We could do that. But it was the way in which He spoke them that we must be interested in copying. He spoke them with absolute power and authority, giving to those words every shadow of life and death.
We often do much less. We may know the Word. We may have parts of it memorized. We may be able to speak it now and then if we have to or if it sounds right. But we don't often speak it with power or authority. We don't often give it the absoluteness that it deserves. In other words, we far more often say the Scriptures than we speak them, and that's a very significant difference.
Or take the way that Christ responded to the needs pressing in all around Him. He answered to everyone who called His name. But He refused to let them determine His schedule. He refused to let them demand His response. He refused to live by the tyranny of the urgent.
This bothers a lot of us, particularly when we see it in the case of Lazarus's death. His friend dies, and Jesus takes His time getting to Bethany, even though He knows He can handle the situation once He gets there. Everyone is grieving - hard - and expecting Jesus to do something, but all He seems to do is to turn His feet toward Bethany and keep walking. Just walking.
Most of us respond with more of a sense of urgency. When someone asks us to do something, when someone calls on us for help, we feel this enormous sense of pressure to come through for them, and immediately. We are constantly rearranging our schedules, shifting things around, putting other things on the back burned, just to do what it seems we could be doing right now. As a result, we often live hurried and harried and even call these things holy, but that's never how we see Jesus live. Jesus was never hurried, pressured, bullied, or guilted into being Jesus.
One of the biggest places I think we can catch a glimpse of the profound difference between the way that Jesus acts and the way that we so often do is in the scenes where we see Him interacting with sinners. Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus interacting with the sick, the possessed, the sinful, the shamed, and every time He does, they come out of the interaction knowing what wholeness is. But it's what we don't see Jesus do here that's important - we don't see Him emphasizing their failures or focusing on their fallenness.
When He asks to eat at the home of Zacchaeus, we don't see Him stressing the fact that this man is a corrupt tax collector. When He stands alone with the woman caught in adultery, we don't see Him emphasizing her filth. When He rebukes the disciples for arguing about who is the greatest, He doesn't launch into a soliloquy about arrogance and pride. At every turn, He simply quietly offers wholeness. He simply unlocks the chains and lets them fall.
And lets them stay there.
We are not so good at this. We can't let others just let go so easily. We're constantly reminding them of who they were, as though that's still what we see when we look at them. We're constantly telling the grace of God only in contrast - you were a sinner, you were a prisoner, you were corrupt, and in doing so, we make that the biggest feature of another person's story. Every time we tell even a sliver of God's grace, we try to tell the depths of man's fallenness, trying to tell God's story by telling the sinner's, but here's the thing: it's not ours to tell.
The woman at the well runs back into town and tells her own story - Come meet a man who told me everything I ever did. Jesus doesn't tell it; He lets her tell it. Zacchaeus isn't pegged by Jesus as a corrupt man, but he tells of his own corruption when he takes steps to correct it.
This is one thing I wish we would do so much better - I wish we would just tell God's story without feeling the need to tell everyone else's. I wish we would let the grace of God speak louder than the judgment of men. I wish that we would give others the opportunity to tell their own stories. That's where the power of testimony is - in the voice of the redeemed speaking its own story. Not in our voices, condemning and consoling as though we ourselves were God.
This discussion could go on for quite a long time, our looking not just at what Jesus did in the Gospels but at the way in which He did those things. This is crucial to our own witness in the world and, I confess, a lot harder. But it's so important. So very important. It's not just enough to do the things that Jesus did; we have to do them in the way in which He did them.
It's the only way He gets the glory for it.
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