Why are those who believe in Jesus Christ repeatedly commanded to do the impossible? Why are we urged to love our enemies (love them?, the Bible tells us to serve them), submit to our authorities (seriously?), treat everyone as better than ourselves (huh?), and provide for those in need… even to the point of laying down our lives for them (!!!????!!!)?
It’s time for a moment of honesty… I didn’t just describe myself (shocker!). Well, maybe the parenthetical statements give semblance.
Yet, these words (minus the parenthetical statements) perfectly describe Jesus. He loved His enemies (of which I was one). He submitted to authority… even unto death. He treated everyone better than Himself, meeting all of our needs! Especially our greatest need… the need of His gospel, which He laid down His life to provide.
So why would the Bible insist we display these virtues as He did? To be like Him? The Bible declares that when we do these things, we look like children of God (Luke 6). Not to make us children of God… we are already that, but to make us look like Jesus, the Son of God.
Revisiting the beginning words of this post, these are impossible commands. We won’t do these things by our own nature and strength. Without the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit, we will always seek to protect, preserve , and promote our own status and agenda.
Still, Paul says that we should ‘put on the new man’ meaning that we must have some role in this process of being transformed into the image of God’s Son (Ephesians 4:24). It is God’s work, but there must be some responsibility on our part for this statement and others (Philippians 2:12) to make sense.
In the final chapters (12 – 16) of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he presents these commands we are to keep. He covers everything from our sacrificial love for others to our right relationship with the governing authorities in our lives. Is it possible that the answer to becoming more and more like Jesus is found in the first two verses of the twelfth chapter?
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2
Is this transformation only possible when we grasp the mercy of God’s grace found in Christ? Do we find ourselves becoming like Him, by His power, when we truly appreciate what He accomplished on our behalf… when we have offered our only available sacrifice, our own bodies?