I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be like Jesus. All too often I think we limit "being like Jesus" to acts of kindness, to praying for people, and doing "church stuff." We might even think of it as being good. This year during lent I was re-reading Dallas Willard's amazing book, The Divine Conspiracy, when something stuck in my head. I grabbed my Bible and opened it up to Hebrews 5.8: Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. Suddenly it hit me hard that being like Jesus meant learning obedience. It wasn’t like I had never thought of that before, or that I had never read that text before, but in that moment it hit me that learning to be Christlike meant learning to be obedient.
For you this may seem overly simple, or maybe in your thinking this should be obvious, but the idea that obedience is more than a great suggestion in how to become Christlike, that it is more than just good for spiritual formation but rather it is essential to being Christlike grabbed my heart. It means that becoming Christlike is more than being helpful, kind, and thoughtful. It means that being Christlike includes a costly decision to obey. When Jesus was in the garden he did not want to suffer the agony of the cross but rather he was pursuing the joy that would result from his obedience (Hebrews 12.2). The Bible never says Jesus wanted to hurt, that he wanted to leave his beloved disciples, or feel the weight of the world’s sin. But he did! Jesus obeyed, even to the point of death on the cross (Philippians 2.8). Then it occurred to me that the model of Jesus obedience was even when you don't feel like it, and even when the price is high, even to the point of death. It is better to obey, than to offer another sacrifice. It is better to obey than go to church, it is better to obey than offer a song of love or to confess my faithfulness, because obedience is the ultimate expression of love for Jesus and the Father.
Read Jesus' words in John 14.23-24: Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. When everyone is preaching about how God is love, and pontificating about what love is or isn't. When the world shouts down the church for obedience to God, it is not our obedience that is out of step but rather the common misuse of the word love. Love does not do whatever it wants, demanding its own way, it is not self-seeking, it is not rude when it defends the truth or when it finds people falling short of God's standard but neither is it disobedient. No matter what the price, Jesus loved the Father enough to obey. So if we are choosing to be students of Jesus, followers of the Way, then we are also choosing obedience; not just convenient obedience but the costly kind.