I cringe whenever worship leaders or pastors speak more like self-help motivational gurus than witnesses and disciples of Christ. This is especially uneasy when becoming like Christ is equated with signs of worldly success (perfect muscular health, no wrinkles or grey hair, lots of money and bungalows, a few cars and a jet plane, getting all A’s for exams, business awards or president’s scholarship, sexy partner and chubby babies, and the lot), whether tacitly or overtly. This happens in prosperity churches and even those endeavouring to be biblical yet emotionally attached to the theology of success.
I also cringe whenever pastors preach becoming like Christ as if it is all about imitating Christ as a role model or template of injunctions. In this case, there may be an emphasis on spiritual growth (which is praiseworthy) but a fixation on behavioural modification. This may take the form of changing outer behaviour without deep inner transformation. Or it may take the form of both outer change and mental indoctrination into the desired shape. This beating of oneself into shape is often misconstrued as inner growth or transformation.
But truth be told, this to me is merely a mechanical drumming of assumed truths into one’s psyche to contort it into some preconceived image or model, replete with varying degrees of repression and suppression. This does not work either. Imitation of Christ in this way ends up at best in an imitation, not the real thing. That is not good enough.
Without wise inquiry into who we mean by Christ, and what is the essence and nature of Christ, not by mere theory but by direct realisation of the heart, how can we ever become like Him—someone we do not really know for sure? Without approaching truth in open wonderment and curiosity, how can we know Jesus for who He is rather than what we think He is? Without stilling the noisy busy mind that is nothing but the past, how can we come to freshly perceive what is real without filters? Without seeing things as they are and seeing Him as He is, how can we come to shine with His energy and being in an uncontrived way?
Becoming like Christ is more about being infused and radiated by Christ than it is about performing this and that injunction as copycats of Him, or what we claim to be Him, which is in reality our mental image of and storied beliefs about Christ, not Christ as He is in Himself.
I’m not saying that these biblical stories are not true. Rather, I’m saying that if they are true, we would recognize and realise them to be self-evidently so in the process of fearless open inquiry. My sense is that God is not afraid of our bold and seemingly perplexed inquiry, but would welcome us to seek Him honestly and without guile. Let us not be indoctrinated into being fearful of this inquiry and merely swallowing without reflexivity every crumb that falls off the table of the preacher, however stale or moldy they might be.