How do you change and become more like God? For the past two years I have been trying to be the kind of person the Bible says God wants me to be.
A long talk with a family member about the person God wants me to be
In a long conversation with a family member last week I bunched three scriptures together to paint a picture of who God is, and what it means for me to be like him. As a father, husband, brother, son, uncle, and friend, it is imperative that I portray who God is with great accuracy to who the Scriptures say that He is.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:5-7 NIV)
“Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22-23, HCSB)
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20b NIV)
My treatise last week went something like this: “I have changed how I react and respond to people around me because I believe that I have to be more like God as a loving father. I have decided to not acquiesce to my immediate feelings, but rather default toward what I have come to believe is how God responds to us. With the immeasurable quantities of Mercy, Grace, Love and Forgiveness, I must attend to the events around me with responses that mirror that of God without regard to how I am received. I don’t hold the faults or sins of others against them, because God has forgiven me of the sin in my life to such a degree that I can no longer stand in judgment of others who have sinned against heaven. He forgave a dying thief on a cross and granted the guilty man entrance into paradise. Who am I to say that I cannot forgive anyone their transgressions against me?”
The reply was, “You’re not listening to me.”
Translation: “That’s not what I want to hear. I don’t want to hear how God is so forgiving and loving, and pours out unquantifiable amounts of mercy and grace. I don’t want to be forgiving, because I want to be justified in feeling that I was wronged at a level yet unseen by man.”
Which kind of person are you?
So, which person are you? I used to be person number two. I wanted vindication, no, make that justice! The conundrum and revelation has come with understanding who God is and how he sees me. The problem is that I am the problem. God had to change my focus.
“I was wronged!” has changed to “I’m so sorry that your hurt is so deep that you want others to hurt as much as you do. Let me show you how to forgive and be forgiven”.
What reacting like God looks in real life
The best example I can give is this: For the past fourteen years I have worked on a huge project. It is a project dear to me on several levels. One of the reasons my future sister-in-law gave to me in 2008 for her stance on postponing my marriage to her older sister was this: “You don’t know everything about her.” Karyn, you were right. My response, however, was what every groom should say about his bride: “I plan on spending the rest of my life getting to know her.”
I know Kelly, who she is now, the best. We spend a lot of time together. We actually enjoy each other’s company for long periods of time. Having spent the past thirteen years married to Kelly, I have come to know so much more about her and what makes her tick. I understand better how she thinks, how she responds to situations, and why she responds like she does in given situations. With all of this knowledge, I can say with confidence that I also know Kelly’s faults. I doubt I know all of them, but I know the vast majority. I could tell you all of the faults I know about her, but I won’t. Not here, not now, not ever. They are not the most important aspects about her.
What is important to me is that Kelly loves me day in and day out. I am so confident in her love for me that I never question if Kelly loves me or not. I go forward in my days with the assurance of her love for me and that her love will never waiver. This confidence is a badge of honor and a shield for me. Because of all of this, I maintain a particular attitude of response to Kelly when we find time to be at odds: Mercy, Grace, Love and Forgiveness.
She may be fighting against her own feelings of guilt.
She may be reacting out of fear from a previous situation that mirrors this one.
She may be fighting to be justified or vindicated.
She may be wrong for an enormous amount of reasons.
Again, I’ve been working on this for a long time. This has not come to me in a divine revelation that made me change in a moment of awe-inspiring realization. God had to bang it into my thick skull with repeated blows.
Whatever the case may be in regards to those around me, as a believer in Jesus Christ and as His disciple, I must adhere to the teachings found within the Scriptures Jesus came to fulfill. I must respond to Kelly and everyone else with Love that shows patience with kindness and no envy, no boasting, no pride. no dishonoring of others, no self-seeking; I must not be easily angered, and must keep no record of wrongs. I cannot delight in evil, but should rejoice with the truth. I must always protect (those around me), always trust (in the Agape love of Christ), always hope (in the One who is Love), and always persevere (to love others unconditionally).
Becoming like God by pursuing those you love
The last part of what I have learned may be the hardest. I must pursue those whom I love. This is hard when those whom I love are, well, unlovable. The parable Jesus was unfolding to his audience painted the picture of a father who daily watched for his prodigal son to return. Every day the man walked out on the front porch and looked to see if his son was coming back home. One day, the father’s persistence paid off. In the distance he saw his son walking home. The father jumped off the porch and broke into a run. He would have had to gather up his robes and run. This was not something men did in the first century, Anno Domini. It was undignified. The father didn’t care. I would not have cared. He ran.
Let me say that there are times when you have to go running as a response to those who don’t want you to be around. In this case, you must maintain the position that when your loved ones call for help you will come running. This is where you apply Mercy, Grace, Love, and Forgiveness to the one whom you love. When their world implodes, you should be available as someone who will welcome them with open arms and provide comfort, assurance, and healing to their situation. This is not the time for a lecture. It’s a time for an embrace like the father did to his prodigal son.
Put away the intentions to correct past mistakes, especially those from thirty to forty years ago. Put away the desire to have your feelings be heard and aired out in a public forum so that your vindication will be complete. The father from the parable rejoiced that his lost son was found. There was no scolding, no shaming, no public humiliation, no berating, no correction of any kind. Follow this example. It’s one of the reasons that Jesus told the story in the first place.
The other main reason for the parable is this: God is pursuing us. He has jumped off of the porch and is running after us. He comes armed with Mercy, Grace, Love, and Forgiveness. When you pursue others what are you armed with?
Pastors, preachers, evangelists, and Sunday School teachers have repeated over thousands of years that we must become more like Christ. Many believe this means living a pious life, devoid of adventure, romance, and human interaction on a real level. The real answer is that we become more like Christ in following the example of his relationship with the Apostle Peter. Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus restored Peter three times and fed him breakfast. What do you do to those who have wronged you? Do you restore or revile?
This world would be so different if we made the decision to pour out massive amounts of Mercy, Grace, Love, and Forgiveness. Especially on those who we feel don’t deserve it.
Prayer to become more like God
“Father, may we/I become more like you; Ready to open the floodgates that will unleash Mercy, Grace, Love, and Forgiveness on the people around us/me. May we/I have your desire within us/me to restore relationships and rebuild our fractured families. Help us/me to always be on the lookout for those who need to be embraced where they fear embarrassment. May we/I always remember that you have first loved us/me, have pursued us/me, and have invited us/me in to your throne room to be a part of the family, and that we/I should do the same for those around us. For you beautiful name we/I pray, amen.”
Copyright © 2019, David E. Shelton, ASCAP