I get mad when I am driving in traffic and someone cuts me off. In the midst of an argument, I tend to wait and say one very poignant barb meant to hurt. That is who I am.
What happens when God's desire for our lives contradicts the "Who I Am" principle?
I can't tell you how many times (those listed included) that I use the excuse "That's just who I am" to absolve myself of my responsibility to act in ways that represent my "recreated in Christ" status. I get mad...I say certain things...I act in certain ways...I do certain things...I have a susceptibility to a certain sin...That is just who I am...But is it really? Is that really the way I am? Or, is that just the cop-out I allow myself to take? (If I am honest, it is usually a cop-out)
The biblical writers seem to think that we can put on the armor of God, that we can develop fruits of the Spirit, that our works can be a profound expression of our faith. Jesus himself calls us to be His disciples. The calling of a disciple in the first century was a profound statement. The Teachers was, in a sense, saying to his disciples, "You can be like me. You can do what I do." (Thanks to Rob Bell for pointing this aspect out).
"It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher."
My theological background comes from the "holiness" movement and John Wesley. There used to be stories about what "entire" sanctification could do in a person's life. One story (I am relating from memory so it will not be exact) spoke of the wife's demonstration of her sanctification in the fact that she responded well when her husband came home from work and was upset. Rather than being an opportunity for a fight, this was the proving ground for a person's entire sanctification. (I always wondered why it was the wife's role that was emphasized in the story, but anyways).
We laughed at the thought that someone could act in such a way. "That's impossible!" we would say.
But is it really impossible? Or, is it just really, really hard? What if it really is possible to offer a soft answer and turn away wrath? What if it is really possible to actually become Christlike in all that we do?
It is impossible if not very rare for this to be a lightning transformation, but couldn't we, over time, through the disciplines, take responsibility for our actions and resist the temptation to do what we feel?
I am very far from this in practice. And, I believe, we all will fail at this. But, this is our goal, and it is possible to live this way. It is not impossible; it is just really hard.
Imagine what the world, the church, would be like if those who follow Christ would actually believe they could be like Him and act like Him. Imagine a world where Christians actually did love God with their heart soul, mind, and strength, and love their neighbor as themselves. Imagine if Christians took responsibility for their actions and did their best to live up to the calling that God has laid on them.
There are some possible problems.
1. The belief that you can reach a point where you ALWAYS do things right. Even when acting out of love, you will still get things wrong. Also, the Kingdom of God has an "already and not yet" element to it. We are part of a fallen world. Through Jesus we are saved, but we are also being saved.
2. The belief that this transformation will happen immediately. Learning to live the way of Jesus takes work--lots of hard work. We live in a fast-food world, and many us expect "revival" or something else to "change" us. There are moments where the Holy Spirit comes in a special way and helps us make spiritual "jumps" that help us grow beyond the "normal" rate of growth. While those things do their work, we also need to do our part through the disciplines and practices of discipleship.
3. A lack of humility. Most of the sins affecting long-term, relatively mature Christians are internal. Most of the sins a person has to deal with have to do with the heart. In fact, Jesus recognized this with statements about white-washed tombs and clean cups. Humility is a big issue because it is easy to think that you have found the "true" essence of Christianity and remain absolutely merciless to other Christians who "don't have it figured out."