Radical idea: My Christ-likeness might be different than yours.
Well, I should say, it will be the same, just different. I spend a lot of time in God’s Word, so I feel safe in saying that such a contradiction is Biblical. It’s kind of like saying there are many roads to God, but only one way. Or that the only constant is change. Or that exceptions are the rule. Hence my formula, “A + B = C (where C is Christ)”.
There are actually many more variables that go into the equation. The most important ones are f, u, m, e, s. I’ll get to those in a moment. But let me present a full explanation, starting with how I stumbled onto this theorem. The following verses came up in my morning devotionals:
Devote your lives to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
1 Peter 1:22 ERV
You have made yourselves pure by obeying the truth. Now you can have true love for your brothers and sisters. So love each other deeply – with all your heart.
I scratched a note on the second:
“You make yourselves ‘purer‘ by obeying the truth – Grace is God’s gift; now that you know you have received it, ‘go and sin no more’“. I will never be perfect, but I pray to make progress towards the purpose my Creator has for me. Whatever He has for me to do, it will involve true, deep love for all others, even those with whom I disagree. So what is this “true, deep love”?
Romans 12:9 ESV
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
I thought another way of saying this, is the cliche, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” So I googled that phrase. Among the many results were two in particular. The first of interest was a post on the site RedeemingGod.com (by Jeremy Myers). The statement that stuck with me from that post is:
“If you love someone, you love all of them, even the lifestyle choices that might have resulted from sinful actions and behavior.”
(To which I added, “you love all of them as they are right now.”)
Honestly, I read the whole thing, but didn’t agree with it completely – I felt it sought to excuse sin. I then clicked on a link to Bible verses.
Romans 5:8 ESV
But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Matthew 6:14-15 ESV
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
but if you do not forgive others their trepasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
I was intrigued that this version did not say “forgive others their trespasses against you“. Therefore I took this to mean that I am called to accept, and then forgive, everyone exactly as they are, to meet them where they are. This is what God does. We all are sinners. No sin is lighter than another. Christ died for all sin, for everyone’s sin.
And what doesn’t matter, in effect, is how that sin came to be. In fact, the “why” of any sin is resolved by the variables mentioned above:
encouragement (for us to persevere, to endure)
strength (for us to change, to ‘go and sin no more’)
God knows my story as intimately as I do. He’s very much aware of my ‘legitimate’ reasons for falling away from Him. He feels the weight of the cross(es) I bear. And He waits on me to realize my need for His help. It’s this realization which “A + B = C” expresses.
Romans 1:22 ESV
Claiming to be wise, they became fools.
…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than The Creator…
My rationales for behaving the way I did were, “It’s not harming anyone.” “It’s OK to feel good.” “God created pleasures to be enjoyed.” Until I found that I was literally hurting myself, my health – and those closest to me. Until I slid down the slippery slope and all I wanted was to feel only pleasure and “fun”. Until “pleasure” wasn’t pleasure anymore, because there was nothing to compare it to. Until I became less and less functional in the real world, serving only my selfish desires. My brokenness. My sin. I did what ought not be done.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not be done.
Let me stress again, this is about me and my sin. Your sin is different. What is the same is that we all sin. And God knows it and us. Being Christ-like is about having a personal, individual relationship with God, The Creator. That’s the “A”. Think of it as Accepting God in this one-to-one manner. Heavenly Father, Savior Son, and Holy Spirit within. He knows me very, very well. He knows what is sin to me, for me. Sin is what hurts me by taking me away from Him. (What hurts me might not be sin to you.)
Once I had a growing relationship with my Maker, I began to read, meditate, and listen to His Word by making the time to be in The Bible (the “B”). God prompts through His Spirit within me, with specific verses each day as I read. These are my guide to changing from the inside out.
Putting A and B together leads me to C:
Romans 2:4 ESV
… God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.
He leads me to turn from the sin I do, from self-hurt and harm to others, literal or in the way I treat them. The fruit of the Spirit, of this time I spend with God, is Peace, Joy, Love, Patience, Kindness, Goodness (Humility), Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. God tells me through His Word what is sin for me. It might be different than what is sin for you, but it’s the same for all of us. Loving others is accepting the way they are, and supporting their efforts to follow Christ to become better.