The Elusive Pursuit of Christlikeness (And Why It’s Okay)
As a “new” Christian, I was in the process of rediscovering my faith. These recurring words I’ve heard since I was a child — salvation, grace, and surrender — finally found its way into my heart. These became foundations of a single-minded pursuit of a relationship with God. For moments of struggle, I was pointed to a powerful thought that essentially changed how I responded to circumstances: How do I react in a Christlike way? In more familiar terms, what would Jesus do?
We have two ways of looking at this. Being Christlike gives us this blessed assurance that identifying with Christ — no longer I, but Christ who lives in me — grants us an esteemed standard for all our actions. Constant sanctification then becomes the goal until our last breath. Another perspective, which we fail to note, is that it is impossible to, ultimately, be like Christ. He is inexhaustible, omnipotent, and sovereign, and we are not; His limitlessness was never designed for our human selves to attain. I would like to focus on the latter.
We become frustrated because we want answers to be revealed to us, when these are not ours to know. We want His secret will in every aspect of our lives for decision-making to be easier. We bite off more than we can chew and question boundaries which have been set to protect us. We clamor for authority and self-sufficiency. Do these sound familiar? The good is not withheld from those who love Him, unless the withholding is the very good.
How then do we respond to the unshakable truth that God is so unlike us? More so, how does this change the way we live? Are we paralyzed by insecurity knowing that even on our best days, we fall short of the glory of God? Do we cower in fear and self-pity while we set aside our gifts? Do we hold on to misplaced shame? Do we pridefully run towards His unattainable attributes and puff up when we do good deeds?
God is infinite, incomprehensible, self-existent, eternal, and omnipresent, among others. Jen Wilkin once wrote,
“Our primary problem as Christian women is not that we lack self-worth, not that we lack a sense of significance. It’s that we lack awe. Awe helps us worry less about self-worth by turning our eyes first toward God, then toward others. It also helps establish our self-worth in the best possible way: we understand both our insignificance within creation and our significance to our Creator.”
Isn’t this awe-inspiring? We now look at our perfect God — unstained, faultless, and complete — who says we are worthy of His presence. He is an immutable God who needs no one yet chooses us and retrieves the single lost soul out of a hundred.
The more we become aware of His attributes, the more we have a deeper understanding of ours. We position ourselves in humble reverence when we discover that our bodies, our platforms, our gifts point towards His glorification. We take comfort in surrender because we worship an all-knowing and unchanging God who takes control of all things.
No way are we exempted from being Christlike. Ephesians 4: 22–24 presents this struggle so beautifully, “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
The God I serve is so different from me, and He designed it that way. I praise Him that I continue to be sought out when I choose to run away. I praise Him that though my performance changes day by day, His devotion remains steadfast. I praise Him that this relationship isn’t dependent on a fair exchange because even if I listed down every good thing I’ve done, it can never repay and warrant for my salvation. I can rest in this Love which covers my sin — my failure, apathy, and rebellion — and embraces every part which is so unlike Him.
We have hope because we worship the God to whom hope belongs to. May we anchor ourselves to His unwavering character. In times that we fall short, may we exchange self-pity for repentance. And, may His grace continue to refine and take us to depths our own efforts can never do.