C.S. Lewis rightly highlights that “Putting on Christ…is not one among many jobs a Christian has to do; and it is not a sort of special exercise for the top class. It is the whole of Christianity (2009:195).” The heart of Christianity is to imitate Christ. But how can it be that Mahatma Gandhi said: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.“ How can it be that many Christians don’t reflect Christ anymore? This article suggests that to successfully imitate Christ, we need a new vision of how it would look like if Jesus would be incarnated in the here and now. This article will suggest helpful questions we need to ponder to gain a fresh vision of what Jesus would do today in our world.
God created humans to be his image-bearers (Gen 1:27). “The image is a vocation, a calling. It is the call to be an angled mirror, reflecting God’s wise order into the world and reflecting the praises of all creation back to the Creator” (Walton, 2015:175). But through the fall, we became distorted and fractured images of God. Jesus was the perfect image of God (Heb 1:3). God’s goal is to bring his “renewed people to the point where they reflect the Son’s image, just as the Son is the true image of God (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15; 3:10)” (Wright, 2002:602). Therefore, imitating Christ and becoming more like him is at the center of the Christian faith.
What would Jesus do? For a great chunk of my youth, I was carrying this question around my wrist and it helped me put Jesus and his teachings at the center of my life. But the longer I live with Jesus the more often I find it difficult to answer this question. When Jesus walked on this earth he constantly disappointed the expectations of all kinds of people. He made the religious people angry, he surprised sinners with his generous love and he sided with the outsiders, poor and voiceless. The Messiah didn’t behave like he was expected to behave.
Why do I assume to know what Jesus would do today? The world of Jesus was radically different from our world now! He lived in a different culture, in an oppressed nation, more than 2000 years ago! Just imagine a second how different the world will look like 2000 years from now. Think about how different life in a remote village in Africa is compared to living in a big Western modern city. This gives just a glimpse of the time and culture gap between us and Jesus.
Why does this all matter? I’m convinced that Jesus’ followers are called to grow in Christ-likeness. Jesus gave us a role model to follow. He showed us how to live the kingdom way. He was the perfect image of God. If our call is to follow Jesus and to model his way of life, then we need to ponder what he would do in this world and in our time. We need to contemplate this question:
How would it look like if Jesus would be incarnated today in the city where I live?
I think this question is of foremost importance! Jesus did everything he saw the father doing. We need to learn to see with our spiritual eyes what Jesus would do. Only if we can (spiritually) “see” Jesus acting in our world and time we’ll be able to imitate him. (Greg Boyd wrote a great book “Seeing is believing” about the importance of using our imagination) We need to have a fresh vision of how it would look like if Jesus would live in the here and now. We need to experience Jesus as a contemporary.
Answering this question is more difficult than I first expected. Ultimately, we need the help of the Spirit to find answers to this question. This article is not written to provide answers. The purpose of this article is to provide questions that will help on the quest to find answers.
Here are some helpful questions we need to ask ourselves as followers of Jesus:
If Jesus incarnated today in my city…
…with what people would he spend his time?
…what would be his message?
…who would he pick as his disciples?
…what places would he visit frequently?
…where would he not be seen?
…how would he teach?
…how would he disciple?
…how would he use social media?
…what would he do for a living?
…what issues of society would he address?
…would he go to church? What would he do at church?
…in what way would he use the Bible in his teachings?
…would he say “The Bible tells you…but I tell you…”?
…would he perform miracles?
…would he cast out demons?
…who would he make upset?
…what parables would he use to describe his kingdom?
…what images would he use to describe how God is like?
Answering all these questions is not easy! But I think all of them are important questions. Pondering them will help us learn to see how it would look like if Jesus would be incarnated in the here and now. And searching for answers hopefully will help us become Christians who actually reflect the beauty of Christ into this world.
Lewis C.S. (2009). Mere Christianity. HarperCollins.
Walton, J. H. (2015). The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (p. 175). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press.
Wright, N. T. (2002). The Letter of the Romans. In L. E. Keck (Ed.), New Interpreter’s Bible (Vol. 10, p. 602). Nashville: Abingdon Press.