Jesus instructed us to follow Him, not necessarily to be like Him. It is so easy when we’re trying to be like Jesus to get caught up in doing good things and, perhaps, miss the best thing entirely. So how do we follow Jesus; what should it look like in our lives?
It dawned on me the other day while I was driving that I often pray that God would make me more like Jesus. But am I setting myself up for failure praying in that vein? We will never ever be even remotely close to being like Jesus so setting an unattainable standard like perfection is, perhaps, why Jesus said to follow Him and not necessarily to be like him. If I’m honest, I have to admit that my prayer to be more like Jesus probably has more to do with my shallow understanding of my own sinfulness than my truly desiring to be like Him.
Perhaps, Jesus was trying to get us to see during His 3 plus year ministry on planet earth that He wasn’t trying to make us more moral. He was trying to make us more relational. From only and always doing what the Father was doing; living with His 12 disciples; being invited to a wedding and there turning the water into wine as His Mother asked; to making sure His Mother was cared for while agonizing on the cross, Jesus was all about relationships. His focus was entirely on doing the Father’s will and loving, relating to people. The Gospel focus is relationships, vertical and horizontal, by loving God first and foremost, and, flowing from that, naturally loving our neighbors as ourselves.
If we think about the garden of Eden and the serpent interacting with Adam and Eve, we see the serpent doing what the serpent does best, messing up relationships. Their relationship with God, walking with Him daily and enjoying His presence, companionship; to being thrown out of the garden. And, their relationship with each other as they immediately, after falling, start blaming others and trying to cover their shame.
Jesus knew we were incapable of being like Him and He had the most trouble with those that thought they could, the Pharisees. That’s why He came to earth to start with, to do what only He could do, keep the law perfectly and offer up Himself as the perfect sacrifice for man’s sins. And, once we accept His gift of a relationship with God, then we are filled with the Holy Spirit and our spirit comes alive and is empowered to follow and relate to Him. And, the closer we follow Him, the more we want to live lives that glorify the Father in all we think, say and do.
So, perhaps we need to spend more time focusing on our relationship with God and less time looking out for and working our own agendas. Then, all the other things, loving, obeying, evangelizing, making disciples, joy and peace will naturally fall into place.