Reflecting the Invisible for All to See

It’s big. It’s way out there. It’s never been seen.

A recent episode of “60 Minutes” showcased the work of astro-physicist Scott Sheppard, who announced the discovery of a ninth planet in our solar system. 50 billion miles away, 10-20 times larger than earth (making it roughly the size of Neptune), and so far away it takes 10,000 of our years to orbit the sun, this planet is still unnamed…because it’s still technically undiscovered. They know it’s out there, just not exactly where.

Even though our telescopes and probes have not quite located it, scientists know it exists because of the profound effects it has on the other celestial bodies in the Kuiper Belt, including the lamentedly downgraded Pluto. Planet 9 might be as yet unseen, but the way it alters the trajectories of nearby asteroids and dwarf planets constitutes irrefutable evidence that it is out there somewhere. So they keep looking.

How cool is that!? Oh, that the same thing be true with God and us! God might be invisible to the world, but His presence should be evident in our behavior. Anyone—and everyone—should have no trouble seeing His effect on our lives. John writes, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” [1 John 4:12]. When our attraction to Him makes us act differently than the usual pattern—when we are wronged, and instead of retaliating or brooding, we forgive—our deeds reveal a God others cannot see. Turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, doing all those little things for the least of these—those altered trajectories reflect God’s pull on us. It’s what Jesus meant when he said, “Let your light so shine before others, that they will see the good works you do and give glory to your Father in heaven” [Matt 5:15]. I can’t imagine how wonderful this world would be if we all lived in such a manner; visible images of an invisible God.

He’s big. He’s way out there. He’s never been seen…except in His pull on us.
Talk about heavenly bodies…

Personanting Christ

impersonate (im-për-së-nāt) v – to assume or act the character of someone else.

True confession: I’ve been ordained for 35 years and have served churches in four different countries; but there are still times when I feel I’m not really a pastor, just impersonating one. Funerals, some hospital visits, discussions with ultra-conservative Christians—these seem to demand an uncomfortable persona I must adapt which doesn’t feel natural, more like I’m just going through the motions, acting like someone else. I do this for the right reasons (at least, that’s what I tell myself), because what others expect of their pastor is important. It’s like what Paul says about eating meat sacrificed to idols; I do not want to be a stumbling block to anyone who might be of “weaker conscience.” So, in certain situations, I act according to expectations, even if it isn’t really me.
I think this is more than an occupational hazard. It might be something every Christian occasionally falls prey to: impersonating “a real Christian,” trying to fit the stereotype expected by others.
“Remember WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? Did those bracelets intimidate you as much as they did me? How could we ever be expected to do what Jesus would do?! Pretty unrealistic. When I was a kid, I had this Sunday School teacher who was always admonishing us: “Would Jesus act like that?” “If Jesus were here, would you say those words?” We were taught things would be different things if Christ was in the room. It didn’t seem like it would be a lot of fun, and we couldn’t be ourselves.
Let me suggest we should never try to impersonate Jesus. We can’t pull it off. However, we should make every effort to personate him in the world around us. Instead of trying to be someone we aren’t, we should embody Christ’s presence wherever we happen to be. Don’t try to be like Jesus. Let Jesus be in us! Paul writes, “For God who says, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6]. No impersonation, no pretending required. We are exactly who we are—earthen vessels that, bearing Christ, glow with God’s all-surpassing love shining within.
I like the way Leonard Sweet puts it. “When we stop impersonating and start personating Christ, we inhabit the name we’ve inherited—‘little Christs’ (Christ-ians) sent into the world for ministry and mission, steadfast in faith, passionate in love, imperishable in hope.”
Jesus commanded us that we should see him “in the least of these”—the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the homeless. When we do so, something absolutely wonderful occurs: those we encounter see him in us!  There’s nothing impersonating or impersonal about that at all.