Thursday, September 16, 2010

To be (like) Christ

I’ve come up with a little phrase in French that I think is fun. It’s one of those phrases that is linguistically humorous (a double entendre, but backwards, I believe) and elicits a reaction of some sort.

Je suis le Christ.

If you know a little bit of basic French you might be thinking, “what?!” Stay with me. If you know a lot of French you may be grinning or thinking, “you idiot.” You can hold on or skip down a bit. If you know no French, let me explain:

Suivre is a verb that means “to follow.” If I conjugate it in first-person singular, it becomes je suis.

Être is a verb that means “to be.” Être is also one of the most common verbs in the French language. If I conjugate it in first-person singular, it becomes je suis.

Yeah, they’re the same. So je suis le Christ means “I follow Christ” or “I am the Christ”. :)

Thinking about this little phrase and how clever I am for making it (pretend I’m 3... that’s about my level in language, so it can be my level in cleverness too, yes?), got me thinking about something slightly deeper. To say that I follow someone, how close to their likeness must I be?

Let’s say that I put on a New York Yankees hat and say, “yeah, I follow the Yankees.” But you ask me to name a player... I can’t even come up with one. I’ll look pretty silly for saying, “I follow the Yankees.” On the flip side, imagine someone who could rattle off the entire roster with current batting averages, every championship year and corresponding roster, and they attend or watch every game, sometimes even showing up for batting practices and media days. Now that’s a true follower, right?

Shouldn’t the line between “I follow...” and “I am...” be somewhat grey? I’m not suggesting that I take over the image of Christ and claim to be what I am not. But if I’m a true follower, shouldn’t I look an awful lot like Him? Shouldn’t I be able to say, “I am like the Christ”? Shouldn’t others who interact with me be able to say, “I have known the love of Christ,” “I have felt the hand of Jesus,” or “I have heard the words of God spoken into my life”? Shouldn’t I be at least a little obsessed? To be a real follower, I mean...

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” -Jesus [Matthew 7:22-23]

Unlike many of us who like to tell stories on this earth, I don’t think Jesus was into exaggeration. If He says “many will say to Me...”, we might want to pay attention.

Having lived in Africa and Europe (and I think I can lump America in too), we’ve gotten away from presenting ourselves as ‘Christian.’ Not that there’s anything wrong with the word... it originally was a derogatory term for the early church planters meaning ‘little Christs’, right? But in today’s world it’s become more of a cultural label, not one of belief, obedience, or dedication. In East Africa, you are born into one of two family lines, ‘Christian’ or ‘Muslim’. In Europe, many say, ‘I’m Christian (or ‘I’m Catholic’), but I’m not practicing (or ‘I don’t believe in God’).” So instead, we try to be clear and say that we are “followers of Christ.”

But now I’m thinking that before I say that again, I need to look at myself. Do I actually look like and act like Him? Am I a fanatic? Or am I as much a follower as someone who bought a jersey and ‘follows’ the hot team right now?

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