Listening to writer, teacher and all around sage Dallas Willard yesterday and he stated a powerful but simple reality:
"If you want to be like Jesus, you can do that."
I hear people, myself included, talk about becoming more like Jesus or growing closer to God but we always talk about it as if it's the same as "I'm going to win the lottery" or "I'm going to lose some weight some day." They are statements of hope, not statements of reality and to hear Willard simply lay out that reality challenges me as this week begins. It brings up two questions:
1. Do I really want to be like Jesus?
I think we have to take this question seriously. Do we really want to be like Jesus? There is no doubt that He led the greatest, most fulfilled life ever. There is no doubt that there was depth, significance, and God-driven hope oozing out of Jesus that I would love to embody. But is that what I think about when I think about being like Jesus? Or do I think about some kind of stodgy holiness - some kind of fun-robbing, holy-rolling fundamentalism where I become aloof and snooty about other people's behavior. Willard asks that we make a list of words - one word, preferably - that describes Jesus Christ. Willard uses "relaxed" but there are others - peaceful, centered, hopeful, etc. Make your own list before you move on to question #2 on this post.
2. What would it look like for me to be like Jesus?
There's a lot of good done by the "What Would Jesus Do?" mantra, but the problem is that it starts to sound like the "I'm going to lose weight some day" dream. Perhaps it's better to say "What would Jesus do if He had my life?" As we start to challenge ourselves with the list from #1, we start thinking about how the characteristics of Jesus that we would love to see planted in our lives would affect what we do. How would it affect our marriages? Our jobs? Our parenting? What we look at online? How we deal with traffic, pressure & stress? If we can as Willard says "be like Jesus" then we need to discover what that picture really looks like in our lives. What is the vision God has for our lives, the vision of becoming like Jesus?
If we take one characteristic from #1, then we can work through this process:
What is the characteristic of Jesus that needs to be a part of my life? (Vision) What do I intend to do about the characteristic starting to describe me? (Intention) What disciplines or practices can I use to open up space for God to transform me so the characteristic of Jesus becomes the characteristic of me? (Means)
This is an ongoing discussion, but I want to offer this challenge to you as it was offered to me from the words of Dr. Willard himself.
Do you want to be like Jesus?
You can do that.
Actually, Jesus wants it for you as well.