Christianity is first and foremost about being like Jesus. The phrase is so familiar it has become a cliché. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what it means to be “Christian”, a term that was first used to describe the believers in Antioch around 40CE. At first, the term was used in derision, or mockery of the early believers. It literally means, “little Christs.” Eventually, however, Christians adopted it to describe themselves as it expressed perfectly their goal in life to emulate their Savior, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:16).
But what does it mean to those of us who call ourselves Christians today, to live like Jesus did? What kind of commitment does that require of us? Most importantly, as I evaluate my own life, how do I measure up?
The goal of every believer to be like Christ couldn’t be more clear in the scriptures. 1 John 2:6 says, “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” We sing songs about it, read books on the subject, we even have fancy, rubber wristbands that remind us to ask the question, “WWJD?” Unfortunately, all of these things haven’t helped me a whole lot in my efforts to live a Christ-like life. If anything, I’ve been overexposed to the idea and need to see things with a fresh perspective.
I recently read about a fellow pastor, Ed Dobson, who decided to get serious about the Christ-like life. He committed an entire year to living his life in exactly the way Jesus did. That may not sound extreme on the surface, but remember, Jesus was a Jew living in 1st century Palestine. That meant following Old Testament laws about eating, clothing and behaviors. For instance, observing kosher dietary restrictions to not mix meat and dairy forced Dobson to give up his favorite chicken and cheese burritos. He observed Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur and Passover and he often prayed at a synagogue. He refrained from work and travel on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath and even obeyed the biblical command not to trim beards.
“The hard part,” Dobson said. “Is trying to live up to His (Jesus) teachings.” The most serious part of his commitment came through his serious study of Jesus teachings. Dobson read through all four Gospels every week. He took seriously Jesus’ commands to help the poor and visit the imprisoned. He prayed daily, repeatedly reciting “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” The prayer of a blind man Jesus healed.
“Jesus is a very troubling individual,” Dobson said. “I’ve realized how far I fall short.”
I wonder what my reaction would be if I focused so intensely my efforts to live my life as Jesus did. How far would I fall short? Where am I missing it today? Do I have the guts to find out? One thing I know for sure is I have a long way to go on the journey to become like Christ.