For me, the ultimate goal of my faith is to live the type of life that Jesus Christ modeled.
I appreciate the deep theology of Paul, I love the practical wisdom of James, and I admire the firm convictions of Peter, but it is Christ that I pursue. Christ is the one I emulate - that’s why, despite the fact that the term “Christian” has become associated with judgmentalism and discrimination, I still call myself by that name.
During his time on earth, Christ had a lot of attributes:
- He lived a holy, sinless life
- He was self-sacrificing, even to the point of giving up his life
- He promoted peace
- He loved his neighbors...and his enemies
- He fought for justice in the face of inequality
But when I look at the grand narrative of Christ’s life, I am inescapably drawn to his mission. Why did God send him to earth? Certainly there were a lot of reasons, but the one that seems to be the most dominant to me is that he came to show the entire world the beautiful, life-giving grace of God.
In my pursuit of becoming more and more like Christ, it’s easy for me to focus on becoming more “holy” - more pure, more sanctified. But sinlessness was simply a characteristic of him as God.
I, on the other hand, am a sinful, messed up man. Sin is a characteristic of my humanity. That’s not to say that I should be content with my sinfulness - by no means! - but I acknowledge that it’s a reality. From time-to-time, I will fall short.
But despite falling short in my own life, I can continue to live out his mission. I can always show grace.
The greatest sin I can imagine would be for me to accept the grace that Christ extended to me, and to keep it bottled up inside myself. I want people to be able to look at my life and see the grace of God radiating through me.
Like the jug of oil that did not run dry, Christ refills me with grace before I can ever run out. The more I pour into the people in my life, the more he fills me up.
As I live, then, I try (and often fail, to be sure) to follow Christ’s example. His own words in Luke 6 perfectly demonstrate his life.
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
… Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.
In my pursuit of becoming more and more like Christ, I must remember that his purpose was not simply to live a sinless life; rather, he came to earth in order to extend the grace of his Father to all humanity.