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Truth in Christian Advertising
I hate to admit that it feels ridiculous sometimes to study Jesus for how to live the Christian life. Most of us have heard that “Christian” means “little Christ,” and we all know that Jesus said, “Follow Me.” But face it: the Son of God had perfect integrity, unimpeachable consistency to “walk the talk.” He was tempted, to be sure, but He never ever sinned. Who He was and what He said and what He did met in complete harmony. Even His enemies marveled at Him.
Our human journey toward integrity doesn’t mean that we pretend already to be a whole lot like Jesus. Our coworkers, friends—and, Lord knows, our spouses and children—learned the truth about us long ago. Once we begin to ask how our actual lives line up with what we claim, however, Jesus turns out to be the perfect companion. Notice I did not say perfect “example.” We Christians cannot claim that merely by studying and admiring the life of Jesus we will become more like Him. Not in reading the map but taking the trip do we get where we need to go.
The apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Imitatio Christi, the imitation of Christ, begins by frankly acknowledging to those around us how very far we have fallen short of Christ’s best for us. No false modesty moved St. Paul to write toward the end of his life that he was “the chief of sinners,” though he had made genuine progress toward “walking the talk.” Paradoxically, the closer to God we get, the more we see our great distance from Christ’s perfection. And thus the greatest Christians remain the most humble.
To be who we say we are begins with our willingness to say what we are not. We are not as lovingly honest or cheerfully generous or humbly forgiving as Christ. We don’t always hunger and thirst for righteousness or seek to be holy as God is holy. Some call it hypocrisy when Christians fall short of the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” It’s not hypocrisy; it’s sin. And Christian integrity begins with our willingness to confess our sins before others catch us in them!
Consistent Christian life comes as we acknowledge to others that Christ in us is the hope of glory, but that we are clay pots as fragile as ever. In truth, our lives advertise not that we are especially loving, but that God is love; not that we have faith, but that God is faithful. Christ in us is the hope of glory, which means we are free to admit that we often don’t even want to want to do the right thing. The life of integrity is lived only as we honestly share the struggles we face to live out the high calling of our daily work.
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