A long time ago, on a sea far, far away, the people who were Jesus Christ’s groupies referred to themselves followers of The Way.
It was the people around them who sneered and labeled them Christians or little Christs.
Believe it or not, back then, following Jesus made a person stand out in a crowd. It was obvious when a person followed Jesus.
Christians nowadays are harder to spot unless they have a gigantic chip on their shoulder.
However, there is good news! To be a Christian, there is one requirement (chip not included): to act like Jesus is telling the Truth.
We (you and me) are incapable of pleasing a holy God. Jesus is the Son of God and loves you enough to take your sin upon himself, die, come back to life, and send a Helper (the Holy Spirit) to guide, teach, convict, and empower us as we walk on this earth.
So that’s how you join the club and that’s where a lot of people stop, either because they just wanted “fire insurance” or because they don’t know any better.
But reconsider what Christian means: little Christ. That doesn’t mean that Jesus is enormously tall. That means that we imitate Christ in his behavior, words, thoughts, and relationship with his Father.
You see, James 1:22-27 talks about how without backing faith (believing that Jesus is telling the truth) with action (acting as though Jesus is telling the truth), your faith is useless.
Think about popular culture. We see something on tv or online and suddenly everyone is acting out that particular trend. We believe that behavior, outfit, or skill is cool. Therefore we act the same way.
Why is that? Because if we believe something is true or at least the conduit for a desirable outcome, we will generally align ourselves with it. Little Christ-ness is basically the same thing.
Being an imitator of Christ is, frankly, impossible. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is holy. The only way to walk, talk, think, and act like him is to invite the Holy Spirit to change you and enact Jesus’s righteousness within you.
Even then, guess what, we are human beings who literally have sin in our DNA (Romans 5:12-14) through Adam and Eve’s mutual choice to disobey God. We’re human.
Becoming like Jesus takes time. Effort. And a daily dose of humility.
Being a Christian is a lifelong commitment to submit will and body to him and live in active obedience.
No matter what anyone else says, you and I have no other way to make ourselves right with God.
Jesus is not tolerant. He is the only means for unity with the Father (John 14:6) and every other path leads to Hell. Jesus is the Truth and he tolerates nothing else.
Sound a little harsh? I guess it would be if He didn’t give up everything to make sure that you and I have a Way to get to him and Heaven (Philippians 2:5-11).
So until then, we are working out our salvation (the daily process of acting out our faith in Christ) with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). It is a process.
That’s one of the reasons the Early Church called themselves followers of the Way, I suspect. They knew it was a journey. A lifelong step-by-step walk up and down the mountains and valleys, forests and swamps of human life.
For those of you who think A) what’s so hard about following the hippy love Jesus guy or B) think you’ve got it all together, read John 8:1-11. What happens seems like tolerance, but in verse 11, Jesus says “go and sin no more” (ESV). Okay. Simple request, right?
Wrong. Look at Matthew 5. That is some serious stuff. Jesus equates lust with adultery, anger with murder, divorce with adultery, then commands us to love our enemies. Does that sound simple or tolerant to you?
Being a Christian is not about “doing the right thing,” being tolerant, getting your act together, or missing out on all the fun. It is about getting help when you need it most.
It is Jesus’ joy to provide for us a way to be with him in relationship forever.
And he doesn’t require us to be perfect to come to him.
Everyone is messy. No one is good enough.
Jesus gave up his agenda to come to save us. Being a little Christ is just doing the same. Being messy humans. Messing up and hurting people.
Then letting Jesus pick you up and walk you another step toward glory.
Then it’s all about walking in obedience, knowing that you can’t make it on your own.