Serious Joy

(Mostly) serious thoughts in light of the joy of seeking God.

Serious Joy - (Mostly) serious thoughts in light of the joy of seeking God.

To Be Christ-Like

My friend Aaron Shafovaloff recently posted a correction on how we think of the term “Christ-like.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Jesus was incredulous. He was exasperated. He was furious. He insulted. He ridiculed. He told of coming judgment. He EXORCISED DEMONS. He said he was GOD. He said he had final authority given to him to judge the living and the dead. He said he had power over life and death. He scared people. He confused people. He repulsed people. He wouldn’t answer questions asked by the local authorities. He stayed away three days knowing Lazarus would die, and then wept when he showed up to his tomb. He supplied the party wine. He preached fire and brimstone. He used satire and mockery. He frustrated his mother. He told his apostles they had new names when he met them. He used frustratingly vague metaphors and parables to purposefully judge a stubborn people (fulfilling Isaiah), and then later told the hidden meanings to the apostles…. What is “Christ-like” about any of that?”

We often use “Christ-like” as a blanket term to refer to the virtuous character of Jesus we ought to emulate. Some use it to refer exclusively to love.  But, as Aaron skillfully points out, such an understanding of the character of Christ is insufficient.

This is not to say that we should do everything Jesus did. The “What Would Jesus Do?” movement seemed to entail that. Rather, it means we should be clear about who Jesus is before we aspire to be like him. If you simply want to be more liked amongst your peers, you should follow someone less confrontational. If you want to pursue God, your boldness before men must be Christ-like.

Like most doctrine, pursuit of Christ-likedness must be balanced. Jesus was not simply confrontational to tick people off. He knew the hearts and minds of his audience and he knew exactly the best approach to accomplish his goals. We do not know these things. For us, to be Christ-like is not a license to be unnecessarily confusing or offensive. It means that if he are Christ-like there will be situations where the gospel we preach is confusing and offense to our audience and we must accept that. If we water down the gospel to “clarify” it or make it less offensive, then we cease to preach Christ’s gospel and we have failed to be like him.

The Bible in American Life or Shirtless William Shatner

Barna Group just released a study revealing the most “Bible-minded” cities in America. Being “Bible-minded” means the people polled in that city read the Bible weekly and hold to its accuracy in teaching. Of the 96 cities polled, only 5 cities ranked 50% or higher. The highest overall are generally in the South and the lowest are in New England.

Bible-Minded Cities

Of course, meeting the criteria of this poll doesn’t necessarily mean the person polled is a Christian. But the fact remains that the Bible is not a foundational part of American’s lives. With around 70% of Americans claiming to be Christian, it appears that perhaps only half of us are “Bible-minded.” (This is a rough estimation, but I think it is fair.) The word of God has been relegated to being another book on the self, or in the e-reader. It remains in the culture as guide among many, utilized when convenient.

What would it look like for the Bible to take root in our lives once more? The Bible has always been relevant, but its relevance needs to be promoted. It has always been instructive, but its application needs to be made more critically. Its words are inspired by the creator of the universe, our creator, and as such it provides better truth, goodness, and beauty than anything it competes against in our lives.

A series of short, five minute films were made in 1962, each based on a Psalm. My favorite is from Psalm 3, called “The Crowd.” It stars William Shatner as actor and narrator, and the screenplay was written by him as well. Rather than describe the film, I will point you to watching it on Youtube.

I appreciate this film because it portrays a man so rooted in biblical thinking that his mind goes to the Psalms in a time of trouble. He seeks comfort not in a bottle or a woman, but in the inspired words of a man after God’s own heart. The more we read the Bible and the more we trust its accuracy, the more we depend on God, its author.