Sunday, June 2, 2013

Don't forget what it means to be Christlike

As I was sitting in church today one of the speakers mentioned how she was continuously working on being more Christlike. As she said it my mind immediately began to turn and to think about the term "Christlike" in an analytic way (it's just the way my mind works). I thought about how it is a very nebulous term that is at the same time very specific and intuitive while being fraught with difficulties and misunderstandings. I recalled how I had heard people use it in such a way that it was basically reduced to a platitude, i.e. their interpretation was so wide just about anything could be considered Christlike.

My train of thought wandered back and forth considering all the ways that I had heard people refer to being Christlike. I remembered people telling me (not me personally, but to my Sunday School class or Seminary class) years ago when I was a teenager, "Jesus spent all his time going about and talking to people and helping them, so that's what you need to be like, and that is being Christlike." Effectively what I heard was "Jesus was a big time extrovert, like me, so if you want to be Christlike then you need to be an extrovert, like me!" (For some reason extroverts tend to think that everyone should be an extrovert like them. I'm sure that there are many introverts who also think that everyone should be introverts, but because they are introverts they don't tend to go around telling people about it.)

At one point during my train of thought I decided to write a blog post about what I was thinking. My initial thought was to title the post something like, "When being Christlike becomes meaningless" but then I quickly realized that I would probable spend most of my post explaining that I am not implying that we should not be  Christlike, but that we should not use the term "Christlike" in a way that it removes all meaning. That's when I decided to change my approach and settled on the current title.

The term "Christlike" is rather simple in its meaning but complex in its application. If you look up the word in a dictionary you might get something like this, "resembling or showing the spirit of Jesus Christ". Unfortunately too many references to being Christlike focus more on personality than on specific acts of kindness or forgiveness. Sometimes we spend too much time saying that we need to be Christlike but fail to identify specific examples of how we might be Christlike. Perhaps if we realize that we are getting caught up in the trivial we should reorient our approach and think more on our relationship with Christ because after we have recommitted ourselves to Christ and his atonement, then being Christlike comes more easily and the attributes of living a Christlike life will flow easily to us. First come the Christ and then be Christlike. It is something that we must do again and again. It is not a one time event, but a continual process.

If at any point we feel that "being Christlike" has become a trite saying that is said because it needs to be said we must first come unto Christ and that will remind us what it means to be Christlike. A good place to start is to return to what has been called the Constitution of a Perfect Life, the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. The key is to remember that I should not become a platitude to say that we are working on being Christlike.
This comes from a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland back in 2006.


LL said...

Well put.

Quantumleap42 said...

Thanks LL, I actually was feeling a little sick yesterday and I wasn't sure if I could say what I wanted to say correctly.

Jared said...

Some of us spend most of our days talking with and helping people but are anything but extroverted. You can do that without being an extrovert. That doesn't really change your argument though. Nice post.