The Church is called to be nothing less than “the body of Christ,” a sort of corporate extension of Jesus’ incarnate body. We are called to replicate who Jesus was by manifesting who Jesus is. And this is how we expand the dome in which God is king—the Kingdom of God.
By definition, therefore, the Kingdom looks like Jesus. This is its essence. And we participate in this Kingdom to the extent—and only to the extent—that we look like Jesus.
This is why the New Testament places so much emphasis on imitating Jesus. For example, Paul commands the Ephesians, “Be imitators of God.” He then explains exactly what he means when he adds, “Live in love, as Christ loved us and gave his life for us” (Eph 5:1-2). Think seriously about this. We are called to do nothing less than imitate God. This is just what it means to be “godly,” or god-like. The Greek word for “imitate” means “to mimic” “mime” or “shadow” someone else. We are thus to be the shadow that Jesus’ casts. A shadow never does anything that the one casting it does not do. So too, we are to do exactly what we have seen God do in Jesus Christ. We are to love as Christ loved us on Calvary: nothing more and nothing less.
Paul stresses that Calvary-quality love is something we’re called to live in. Love isn’t something we’re supposed to do occasionally, when it’s convenient, when we’re in the mood or when we already like the other person. Rather, Calvary-quality love is to be woven into the very fabric of our life—our breath, our brain waves and our heart beat. The time you’re called to love is when you’re breathing, when you’re conscious, when your heart is beating.
The apostle John teaches essentially the same thing when he defines love as “Jesus Christ [laying] down his life for us.” He then adds that for this reason, “we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (I Jn 3:16). We are called to love, which means we are to replicate Calvary toward others.
This love we are called to live in isn’t something sentimental or abstract: it always takes the form of action—as God’s love did on Calvary. And this is why John immediately provides us with a concrete illustration of this love.
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (I Jn 3:17-18).
This is the Kingdom of God. In fact, this is the definition of “Christian,” for this looks like Jesus Christ. It’s not primarily about thinking and saying the right things—“the correct doctrine” as so many insist. It’s about doing Jesus-like things. It’s about Calvary-quality ACTION. It’s about sacrificing to meet a need when you see it. It’s about mimicking Christ with every breath, brainwave and heart beat.
Because we are called to love like Christ loved us, we are to love without any regard for whether we think they deserve it or not. Common sense must never be allowed to trump the love we’re called to give. Thus Jesus teaches us:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back…. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:27-28, 35-36).
This is what Calvary-quality love looks like and this, by definition, is what the Kingdom of God looks like. We are to be merciful, just as the Father has been merciful to us—unconditionally and indiscriminately.
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