According to author Robert Mulholland, the goal of spiritual formation is to be conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others. Many folks think that when we are conformed to Christ, we act, look, and talk differently. In many cases this is true, especially after a conversion experience.
For others, being conformed to Christ seems to make them turn into someone they are not. Eventually, those who wear the mask of Christian conformity tire of the theatrical act and wonder whether or not “playing Christian” is even worth it. Christianity is not a masquerade ball, and faith founded on pretense is flimsy at best.
When the Spirit conforms us into the image of Christ, we are actually called to shed our masks. Jesus makes us fully human and forces us to live into who we are as unique individuals made in God’s image. Jesus does not require us to be something we’re not; we can accept who we are just as we are.
One of the ways to live into a life of abundance and acceptance is to align all of who we are under the lordship of Christ. There is no aspect of our being, from the intellectual to the physical, which escapes God’s transformative engagement in our life. And those who live in the Light have nothing to hide, even if their life is a total sum of repeated failures and fragility.
As a typical guy, one of my strengths (and, inevitably, my weaknesses) is that I am able to compartmentalize many aspects of my life. For instance, if I make a mistake at work, it does not necessarily affect who I am or who I intend to be when I am at home. Each facet of my life fits into a separate box, neat and tidy.
This is different from how my wife goes about life; she sees everything as interconnected. If I say something when we are at Wal-Mart on Monday that hurts her feelings, she will remind me on Friday that I have yet to apologize.
My wife reminds me that my actions, much less my Christian life, influence every part of who I am. The person I am on Sunday should be the same person I am Monday through Saturday. The Christian that I appear to be in church is supposed to be the same Christian I claim to be in my relationships, career, and personal life.
Though I can separate the stresses of work and family into neat compartments, God wants me to understand that every facet of my life plays a part into a dynamic and integrative whole. Being conformed into the image of Christ means that I connect these loose threads and weave my life into a tapestry that reflects God’s glory and honor.
As you work, play, and relate this week, ask yourself several questions: Do I see Christ as a participant in everything I do? Do I still hide some parts of my life from God? Am I a Christian because Christ has a claim on my whole life, or am I only wearing a mask of Christian religiosity?
In the Old Testament, the Shema stresses: “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today” (Deut. 6:4-5, NLT).
Only when we take off our masks and align all of who we are under Christ’s lordship can we discover our true, authentic selves—the very people that God intended us to be.