Years ago I read a book telling me how to be more like Christ.
I know that the author meant well but the impact on me was that it made me feel inadequate because I always seemed to fall well short of the mark.
When Mahatma Gandhi was asked how Christianity could be more acceptable in India he said, ‘‘I would suggest, first, that all of you Christians ... begin to live more like Jesus Christ.’’
His cynical observation had some truth in it but it didn’t tell me how I can be more Christ-like.
Ruth Graham in her book Legacy of a Rat Pack, told of a meeting she had with a young Indian student named Pashi. As she spoke to him about Christ, he said, ‘‘I would like to believe in Jesus Christ. We of India would like to believe in Christ. But we have never seen a Christian who was like Christ.’’
Come to think of it, neither have I.
We believers are all merely pilgrims in progress, encumbered with disagreeable genes, trying — and in the process being found ‘trying’ indeed.
There are degrees of saintliness, but the very term Christ-like is confusing. Like Him in what way? His ability to heal? To cast out demons? To raise the dead? To cast money changers out of the temple? To teach? To face his accusers calmly, silently?
I think basically what is meant by the term Christ-like has got to do with his attitude towards his Father’s will.
‘‘I come to do your will ... I delight to do your will.’’
Whatever the true meaning, I was feeling we had somehow let the Lord down rather badly. So I decided to call our friend, Dr Akbar Haqq, a brilliant Christian who used to be president of the Henry Martyn School of Islamic Studies in New Delhi.
‘‘Akbar,’’ I asked, after explaining the problem to him, ‘‘What would you say? How would you answer Pashi?’’
‘‘That is quite simple,’’ he replied, ‘‘I would tell him, ‘I am not offering you Christians. I am offering you Christ’.’’
The Bible tells us how to live and think in a Christ-like manner and that is something we should strive to do, but as I accept the fact that it is Jesus who is important, not me, that really takes the pressure off.
Try as I might, I can never be totally like Christ. For a start I am not perfect, but I can try to be Christ-like in my attitude in seeking God’s will, just as Jesus did.
And as I do this I believe that, hopefully, people will see — beyond my human weaknesses — some Christ-like qualities.
Di Thomas is the editor at The News