Some days the world seems to want to squeeze us all into the same mold. Do we find ourselves eager to be like everyone else and use the right toothpaste, wear the right clothes, drive the right cars, have the same perspectives on success, and the same desires? Do we fear to be different? Are we so afraid of rejection that we cave to the pressure of the world? Do we want to be like everyone else fearful to make changes for fear of being weird or out of fashion?
We long for acceptance and connection with others, but deep in our souls we know we are created for more that conformity and compliance. We long to discover who we are meant to be. It is only in our relationship with Christ that we discover all we are created to be. And it is only in this relationship, as we are empowered to use the gifts, He gave us, that we become individuals with compassionate hearts. Hearts that look to care for another and be counter-cultural to the world’s culture of self-centeredness. As Christ progressively makes us like Him we develop hearts of compassion. It is in union with Christ that we learn to love and serve like Him in an infinite variety of ways.
The image of Christ is formed in each of us in unique and individual ways. This image brings cleansing, healing, restoration, renewal, transformation, and wholeness into the unclean, diseased, broken, and imprisoned parts of our lives. It brings compassion where there was once indifference, forgiveness in the place of bitterness, kindness in the place of coldness, transparency in the place of protective defensiveness. It brings a life lived for God and others, not for ourselves. As 2 Corinthians 3:18 states, “We all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness.” Ephesians 4:13 continues, “until we all attain…to mature personhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Colossians 3:9-10 completes the thought, “seeing that we have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.”
We can never be all that God wants us to be with others as long as those points of unlikeness to the image of Christ exist within us. The work of God’s formation in us is a process of forming us in His image, taking place at the points at which we are not yet formed in His likeness.
If we want a good test of our spiritual growth, simply examine the nature and quality of our relationships with others. Are we more loving, compassionate, patient, understanding, caring, giving, and forgiving than we were a year ago?
This means the Spirit of God is going to be confronting and challenging us from our brokenness into wholeness in Christ. The part of us that has not been formed into the likeness of Christ is not simply a thing in us-it is an essential part of who we are becoming.
As God knocks on the door of our hearts, wanting to change who we are, we must release ourselves to God. When we come to a point of saying ‘yes’ to God at each point of our unlikeness, we give God permission to do the changing work God wants to do, because transformation is not going to be forced on us. When we say ‘yes,’ the process of being formed into the image of Christ begins.
Jesus joined loving God with loving others in Matthew 22:37-38 when He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Our relationships with others are not only the testing grounds of our spiritual life but also the places where our growth toward wholeness in Christ happens. The process of being formed in the image of Christ takes place in the midst of our relationships with others.
Take a few moments at the end of the day to reflect on your day, asking God to search you and know you and help you to know yourself (Psalm 139:23-24). Review each part of your day, each interaction with others, each inner thought pattern, and each outer response. As you do, ask God to show you where you fell short of being like Christ, where you fell short of God’s created purpose for you as a compassionate person. As God brings moments to mind, confess them as a place of unlikeness to Christ, and ask for forgiveness. Open yourself to God’s transformation in that area and give Him permission to do His work.