We sang this really awesome new song by Hillsong at church last Sunday. It’s called “To Be Like You,” and here’s what the entire song pretty much says: Jesus, all I want is to be like you. Shocker. It’s an awesome song. It really is. If you’re into the contemporary Christian music thing like I am (I’m also into Lana Del Rey and American Authors and Jay Z, in case anyone was wondering). Anyway, I couldn’t help but think that this song should be like the freakin’ anthem of all Christians everywhere. For real, it’s THAT good. Isn’t that the motto? I mean, as Christians. The motto for everyone else is YOLO, I guess. I was just swimming in the joy that had puddled up around my waterproof mascara because I was like dude, when people ask me about my faith, that’s all I have to say! Jesus, all I want is to be like you.
It made me think of a beautiful conversation that I had with a dear friend a few weeks ago at a trendy little cafe in midtown. He was telling me about his lack of faith in Christianity, which I *love* talking to people about. Not because I like to argue my point and not because I’m waiting on someone to convince me that I’m wrong, but because I genuinely love learning about the way other people’s hearts operate. It’s fascinating to me. And my friend will tell you that I’m the last person to thump a Bible on someone’s head as I teeter between offense and defense in an ignorant battle. I just love to chat. He was telling me about his inability to unlearn what he knew to be scientifically true. I honestly get that. He was also telling me about his understanding of who Jesus was, and whether or not he believes in the idea of a perfect Savior, he believes that this historical figure, Jesus, was an incredible man who should be imitated. 10 points for Gryffindor, am I right, Jesus Freaks? (Oh my God, I cannot believe I just spelled that correctly on my first try. I also can’t believe I just used the term “Jesus Freaks.” I’m so lame.) It’s comforting to know that I don’t have to defend Jesus. He doesn’t really need my defending. Most unbelievers that I’ve spoken with agree with and admire the teachings of Jesus, actually. He speaks for Himself. That’s such a relief.
“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” -Gandhi
Ooooooh, and there’s the kicker. Most people share the same sentiment. It’s a valid point. The problem with that argument is that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to follow Christ. This isn’t necessarily everyone else’s fault. Maybe Christians should be a little more clear about our intentions. Maybe it’s something that’s simply impossible to understand if you’re not a part of it. It’s difficult to understand if you are a part of it. Let’s start with what I just said, though, about following Christ. Well, first of all, following someone means you’re obviously behind the person in front. I think that’s just a nice reminder for everyone. As a follower, it’s kind of impossible to catch up with the perfect, all knowing leader. But frankly, a lot of us could try harder. Some of us are sprinting. Some of us are practically crab-walking. And some of us are sitting on our asses expecting others to drag us along this journey called life.
Some of us are lucky enough to be asked about our faith. We’re fortunate enough to try to form some shaky words that sum up our very soul. Some of us will only reveal our faith through the way that we lives our lives, which speaks much louder than my shaky words, mind you. I wonder what my words and actions are conveying to other people about what I believe. I wonder if my words and actions are actually saying one of these things:
“I mean, I think there’s a God out there. It’s about karma, ya know? Be good to people.” or
“And on the third day, God created the remington bolt-action rifle so that man could kill the dinosaurs… and the homosexuals.” (You better get that Mean Girls reference.)
“Jesus, all I want is to be like you.”
I’d hope that my words AND my life both shout that last one from the rooftops, but that’s probably not the case.
After we sang that song at church Sunday, the pastor’s wife came up to greet us. She was talking about that song, and she said something so brilliant (as usual), and it reminded me of why I love my church so much. She said that as beautiful as those words are (Jesus, all I want is to be like you), what most of us are saying most of the time is this: Jesus, all I want is to want to be like you. How profoundly honest. Because if we’re all honest, even Christians, what we really want is not always to be like Jesus. As human beings, our hopes and dreams probably look more like this:
Jesus, all I want is to be an actress.
Jesus, all I want is to be in love.
Jesus, all I want is to get this job.
Jesus, all I want is to feel successful.
And above all: Jesus, all I want is to be loved.
And that’s where we start. We have to start there. I think there’s no denying that humans have a basic need to feel loved. And then there is a growth in our spirituality where that sentence transforms, maybe not indefinitely, but for a moment, at least. The natural progression of falling in love with Jesus makes the transformation look like this.
Jesus, all I want is to be loved>>Jesus, all I want is to want to be like you>>Jesus, all I want is to be like you.
A lot of us get stuck in that first one for a long time– sometimes an entire lifetime. Many of us get stuck in the middle, which isn’t an awful place to be. The extremely faithful find themselves in that last one often– maybe not always, but often.
You see, the reason why unbelievers find it so hard to deal with Christians is that many of us are thrilled to jump up in defense of our actions and say JESUS, ALL I WANT IS TO BE LIKE YOU as long as it doesn’t conflict with my other interests (including implementing Old Testament law about sexuality, but not pork or hairstyles). Saying that in itself contradicts the first part of the statement. Being like Jesus can’t possibly be ALL you want every second of every day. People who aren’t Christians (who normally like to cling to intellect) should be intelligent enough to realize that such a selfless desire can’t be that consistent. And Christians should be humble enough to admit that while yes, Jesus, 70 percent of what I want is to be loved, and yes, Jesus, 20 percent of what I want is to want to be like you, that other 10 percent actually wants to be like you on Sundays and Wednesdays and maybe even Monday mornings, but pretty much every other day, that percentage is just dying to be like Jennifer Lawrence. Or it wants to watch movies all day. Or it wants a kitty right meow. What I’m saying is, I don’t want to be like Jesus every minute of every day. Suggesting otherwise makes me a liar. And no one really likes a liar, and that is why Christians and non-Christians are at each other’s throats in this not-so-holy war.
Here’s what happens: Christian gets called out for *not* really acting like Jesus, and instead of humbly owning that, Christian decides to sing “YOU CRUSH THE ENEMY UNDERNEATH MY FEET…THE GOD OF ANGEL ARMIES IS ALWAYS BY MY SIIIIIIIDE,” as if Chris Tomlin wrote that song about the left-wing liberals, assuming that God himself is going to strike that person that called Christian a hypocrite with lightning, therefore making an enemy that could never really be an enemy in the first place because we’re not the victor.
And everybody’s like whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat did she say?
Yes, we are children of God, we are heirs, but here’s the thing about this “battle” on Earth. GOD is the victor. SATAN is the enemy. We are fugitives. It’s not our job to plot against each other. That person that called your bluff is not the enemy. In this situation, it is imperative to be honest with each other and to be honest with yourself in saying “you know, Jesus, I want to be like you. There is a part of me that wants to be like you. But there’s another giant part of me that would much rather memorize some rules. There’s another huge part of me that would like to make up my own rules. Forgive me, and help me to cultivate that part that genuinely wants to be like you.”
When I’ve allowed God to grow into the cracks in my fragile heart, there are days when I can stand up and say “Jesus, all I want is to be like you.”
But most days, I find it much more honest to just keep it at “Jesus, may I never lose the wonder of your mercy. May I sing your hallelujah, amen.” (New Matt Redman song. It’s my fave!)
I think that’s the honest thing to do. I think it’s the loving thing to do. I think that’s the pure and genuine and transparent thing to do. And I think that’s the closest to the Jesus thing that I’ll ever be able to do.