Being like Jesus is what makes us different

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Christ is the foundation of any lasting change

By Connie Faber

The top Bible verse that Americans read and shared in 2015 was Romans 12:2: “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.” At least that’s according to the 200 million people that use YouVersion, the most popular online Bible app.

Reflecting on this verse’s popularity, Her.meneutics editor Kate Shellnut writes that many evangelicals desperately want to be different from the world around them. “We believe that if our faith makes us noticeably unusual, it will attract others to God,” she writes. “Ultimately, though, being different doesn’t attract people. It’s what makes us different that does. And what makes us different is being like Christ…. It is not being unlike the world that defines us; it is being like Christ.”

We Mennonite Brethren resonate with the plea to be like Christ. Both our evangelical and Anabaptist traditions emphasize this idea. If Romans 12:2 is a significant verse for today’s evangelicals, 1 Corinthians 3:11 is historically a key verse for Anabaptists. Menno Simons, the leader for whom Mennonites are named, placed this verse on the title page of the more than two dozen books and pamphlets that he wrote: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

The foundation of any lasting change, whether individual or corporate, is found in Jesus. Jesus transforms us, and our response should be to work as his agents of change in our families and communities and around the world. “True evangelical faith is of such a nature it cannot lie dormant but spreads itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love,” wrote Simons.

Where does the world need to see the church be like Christ? In what situations must our faith be spread? Here are three that come to mind.

  • Followers of Jesus should be among the first to welcome refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers to our country, regardless of their countries of origin or religious beliefs.
  • In this election year, followers of Jesus can give witness to virtue and love by having civil conversations with those whose political views are different from our own.
  • Anticipating the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding same-sex marriage, U.S. Mennonite Brethren affirmed a traditional view on marriage. But that doesn’t preclude us from having gay friends and from speaking into their lives.

Welcoming refugees, negotiating election year politics and responding to homosexuality are all complex issues. But in all three situations there are too many hurtful and divisive words being tossed around—and all too often Christians are doing the throwing. We are talking when we should be listening. Virtue and compassion lie dormant as we give voice to prejudice and stereotypes. This year, let us commit to listening more than speaking, and, when we do speak, to seasoning our conversations with words that make us more like Christ and less like the world around us.

 

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