What Does Christ Look Like?

The question I turned over last night was this: What does a practical Christianity look like in the world around us?

I mulled over it for quite awhile, wondering how I could urge conversation that would go deeper than our speak-easy Christianese. Be honest, was your first reaction to give me some word like “loving,” or “forgiving”? I don’t at all diminish those as answers; I merely think they are unspecific, and therefore, impractical in terms of guiding our lives by it.

Can we marry an idea with an example?  We all know that Christ is merciful; but when we put it into an example, with context, and speak about a woman–broken, surrounded by accusers, bent to the ground in shame–and how Christ silenced the voices (within and without), granting her grace and the opportunity to change, then we see an example of His mercy in a real way. It becomes more than a theory. It becomes the person of Christ Himself.

But we are not living in 1st century Palestine. We seldom (to be read “never”) see a woman about to be stoned for her sexual exploits. So what does Christ’s mercy look like in a society of texting, facebook, twitter, dvr, oil spills, political unrest?

What does Christ look like in America today? When have you seen Him last? What was He doing?

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8 thoughts on “What Does Christ Look Like?

  1. “What does Christ look like in America today?”

    Hey, Sarah,

    Jesus must shine out through our words, behavior and attitude, or we, as Christians, are just playing a game with Him. Searching “fruit” in e-Sword produces a raft of references to behold.

    Eph 5:8 -10 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.

    If our goodness, righteousness, and truth is unobservable to those around us, Christ will be invisible to all and we are fooling ourselves. This is not to say that any form of merit assures our salvation, but it is surely an indication of a good relationship with Him.

    Serving others – within and without His Body, should become a habit rather than a Thanksgiving holiday episode. Grocery bags of goods can be delivered anonymously throughout the year. Toys do not need Christmas to bring joy to a child whose father was just laid off. Driving a neighbor to the doctor and comforting them along the way is an example of goodness that always brings a sense of satisfaction.

    The Holy Spirit communicates impulses to true Christians frequently, or we are not Walking in Him. Yes, test the Spirit, but follow the impulse for your reward and satisfy the admonitions of Scripture.

    “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Mat 7:18)

    Be a good tree !

    • Excellent response, Dave! I love the examples you give, and I think you hit the nail on the head there. I have always loved the verse in 2 Corinthians 8 where Paul writes, “But since you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you–see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” One of my absolute favorite verses!

      Very nice to see you again, Dave. I hope you and all yours are blessed. :)

  2. The west may be free of stonings and other barbaric punishments, though there were at least thirty well-noted and publicized occasions in the past year where women were horrifically injured and killed. One teenager was beaten by police for daring to wear trousers.

    We’re very, very lucky to be living where – and importantly when – we are.

    But to answer the prime question posed – I’m not sure appearance is at all important. God may appear to humanity as anything he wants, and if that form is recognizable to us, then it is merely by his wish. There’s been a number of interpretations of what appearance means in relation to spiritual figures, though I tend to believe that the entirety of the universe (and, by extension, all life therein) is the physical manifestation of God.

    • Hi bw. :) Thanks for responding!

      Allow me to clarify. I’m not concerned with the physical characteristics of Christ (or even of Christians); rather, I’m concerned with how the theologies and ideas of Christianity are played out in a physical or practical sense. For instance, do you text when someone is telling you something that’s trouble them? Or do you give them your undivided attention? Of course, it is common courtesy (or used to be…or should be…) to give them your attention, but what is the expectation for a Christian?

      Or another way of asking the question might be: How does faith play out in our every day lives?

  3. I don’t think it’s necessarily a Christian act to worry about people who are in trouble, as much as it is a natural human one. I make sure that I follow up on people who blog (or tweet, or start threads on fora) about the difficulties they are going through – when someone mentions something that is obviously causing them distress, it’s important to let them know they are not alone in their troubles. There used to be much tighter RL communities to alleviate burdens people were carrying, but with the fracturing and fragmentation of societal norms, it falls on the internet community to pull together in times of need.

    There’s still a whole bunch of people out there trying their best (even those with non-conformist religious beliefs such as I) to make the world just a little bit better than it actually is. The whole concept of being a moral, or ethical, individual online has been one which even the best of us have struggled with, and there is still a ways to go. Back in the middle of December there was a question posed on a forum about how people react when they see someone fall on the ice – a great number of responses were to say they would (answering honestly) keep walking. Until the majority say they would lend assistance, or call for medical aid, then there is still room for personal growth.

    Just my two cents. :)

    • You make a few interesting points. I’m not sure that I’ll respond to each of them here, but I’ll likely blog about them…

      I do want to talk about this one, however: I don’t think it’s necessarily a Christian act to worry about people who are in trouble, as much as it is a natural human one.

      Do you really believe that we are naturally compassionate beings? I’m not sure that compassion has any place in natural selection. I would be interested to hear an evolutionists’ take on compassion, where it comes from, and how it serves those “fittest” that survive. As a Christian, I don’t believe that fallen man is naturally compassionate. I do believe (with some degree of heartache) that most of us are primarily selfish, self-concerned, self-serving, and self-motivated. It always amazes me, for instance, when a Christian youth group comes back to the States after a missions trip. What do they say? “It changed my life!” and “I’ll never be the same!” It’s all about the youth. The focus in doing good can often become nothing more than an appeasement of our own guilt.

      So is the question whether I would stop and help the person who falls on the ice? Or is the question whether I would be concerned for the person? Stopping and helping may be the evidence of concern, but it is not necessarily so. Of course–you and I cannot determine the motives of another person’s heart.

      Interesting topic, nonetheless. I appreciate your thoughts, and hope you’ll continue to hang out here with me. :)

  4. I’ve been looking for the quote, but it appears to have disappeared (knowing my luck I’ll probably find it having commented again), but there was an examination of the psychology behind altruistic behavior in modern society which picked up on exactly this point. Generally speaking (and with certain exemptions) most people are aware of their action in relation to the greater part of society, and attempt to live in a way that will minimize negative attention being brought to them. This can be interpreted as self-preservation, but there are also studies which raise the possibility that we are more good than we are evil.

    The real kicker? Go look at any incident in the last few decades where some terrible accident or terrorist incident has occurred. You will find numerous instances of ordinary people putting their own lives in danger to try and save people they do not know. There are reams of documents available which add to the understanding that helping others is natural for us – even if, most of the time, we submerge some of the impulses to do so because of peer pressure – and goes back to a time before humanity had fully evolved. The social structure of small mammals which have a shared responsibility to look after the burrow (or other shared dwelling) probably explains at least some of this.

    Go look at a video of meerkats, and watch how the needs of the individual becomes subservient to the needs of the whole once a threat becomes apparent. Any excuse to watch meerkats is a good one. ;)

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