In Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul says that what he has gained in Christ far outweighs that which he has let go of (and what he has let go of is fairly substantial, in the world’s eyes).
He says he wants to gain Christ, be found in Christ, and know Christ… in the power of his resurrection and also by participating in his sufferings. He wants to become like Christ in his death, trusting that somehow that also means he attains the resurrection of the dead.
Reading this the other day brought about a new perspective for me on “Christlikeness.” I have thought of Christlikeness as essentially an inward change of character. I become more and more ruled by love, as Christ is.
And that’s true, but according to the Apostle Paul, Christlikeness also has to do with a willingness to walk his path. To walk through suffering, like Christ. Not embittered by it, nor avoiding it through distraction or addiction. Not just an inward character shift, but the outward walking out of the path of suffering.
This is Lent: intentional embrace of the way of the cross. Which is especially important because of our affluence. Fasting is a way of embracing suffering, and it’s one of the most scandalous Christian disciplines for our culture, because we assume our desires are telling us the truth about ourselves and what we need.
So we recognize, with the Apostle Paul, during Lent that even though we have already been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, we have not yet obtained the fullness of our participation in his life. So we “press on” to” take hold” of that for which Christ took hold of us.
Forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead, we press on toward the goal: full participation in his life. To gain Christ. To be found in him. To know him in his resurrection and his sufferings. To participate in his death and thus also in his resurrection.
This Lent, lean into this future.