When we sing in church that "I want to be like Jesus," I don't know about anyone else, but I know I'm often lying when I sing that. Jesus had a lot of qualities and habits that I really don't want to adopt. Being like Jesus could really screw up a lot of areas of life that I've come to manage OK. Take for example Jesus' habit of associating with "sinners." Jesus was so certain of his mission from the Father, so certain of the power of the Spirit, and so certain of his deity that he brazenly dined with outcasts that more "religious" people of his day avoided. Let's face it, I too have groups that I avoid out of religious conditioning also. Jesus may love these people, but I certainly don't. At least right now. When I do ever develop a love for these people, I'll look very different than I do right now. In the meantime, until my heart radically changes, here's a top 10 list of those who challenge me the most, and reveal the extent to which I still don't want to be like Jesus.
Counting down (drum role please Paul):
#10 Kids - because it's so hard to explain my theological categories to them. So I'd rather not try.
#9 Teens - same as above, with the addition that I can't handle having to earn their respect.
#8 Business men/women - because I've never succeeded big at business. So I'm intimidated to speak, thinking I lack credibility.
#7 Needy people - because I like to hide in a busy lifestyle that can't carve out 10 frik'in minutes to listen to their problems. Plus, it's emotionally draining to care, so I don't (and don't enjoy faking it either).
#6 People with other religious backgrounds - because I hold them responsible for following a lie, and therefore undeserving of the truth I got for free.
#5 Waitresses/waiters - because I know that I've probably already lost credibility with them before now by acting very un-Christian at their restaurant on Sunday after church; I didn't tip them well or was too demanding. They'll know I'm a joke already.
#4 Neighbors - because they see me all the time; they know that I sometimes peel out of the driveway in anger, kick the kid's bike off the porch, waste lawn water or hang the Christmas lights wrong.
#3 Lesbians - because I'm a guy, an evangelical and a conservative Republican who thinks they're an attack on our "American" way of life. So I just can't handle that. Period.
#2 Gay men - same as above, with the addition that I'm insecure enough to think that homosexuality can be caught like a cold, and it wouldn't be long (after developing a discipling relationship) until I started showing signs of sensitivity, a stronger fashion sense and spoke of "brotherhood" without the aid of war analogies.
#1 Mexican immigrants - because I don't value people enough to learn any Spanish. In addition, as a conservative Republican I'm far more concerned about border security than I am about the missio Dei. I can't bring myself to view people who speak a different language, value immigration law differently than I do, listen to different music than I do, dress different than I do, and have different holidays than I do, as people made in God's image. My depravity likes to classify those who are that different from me as less human than me. I don't speak of this group as "people." As a good conservative I use terms like "illegals," or "workers," or "Latinos." I simply can't handle sharing Christ with those who challenge these beloved categories of mine. Instead of seeing a person needing the love of Christ like it do, I see something else.
I'm a hypocrite. I was born a hypocrite. I'd rather not be a hypocrite, but being one still gives me comfort, keeps me warm. Life is more simple within my little box. If I were honest, I'd sing "I want to want to be like Jesus." I'd like my affections reformed so that I want what Jesus wants. If I truly wanted what Jesus wants right now, the above list would be inaccurate. It's still sadly true though. I hope it's not true of you. If it is, maybe we can reform together, and eliminate the above list.