Wonderfully Mistaken Identity

I spent some time with a princess this summer.  Her name is Samantha.  She is my four your old niece.  We do not get to spend time together very often.  We had loads of four-year-old fun.  I pretended to eat the plastic food she had baked for me at her kitchen set.  I listened to some fascinating stories.  Heard about the best movies.  Had tea together.  And played Barbies.  Then we played Barbies some more.  And still more Barbies.  There were about 40 Barbies in various states of fashion and undress and a few token Kens.  There were fascinating Barbie soap operas.  Intense and elaborate story lines for which I had to hold the correct Barbies in just the right places for long periods of time.  It was fun.  It was an honor.

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I can easily remember Samantha.  I’m in my 50s. I’ve watched her life journey from the very beginning, though often from a distance.  Her 4-year-old mind has a harder time with who I am.  The concept of ‘uncle’ is a foreign thing to her.  I’m not regularly around.  She forgets the times we spent together when she was younger.  So in the days that we were together this summer it was quite common to hear her saying, “Can ‘that guy’ come play with me?”  This was always my marching orders for another round of Barbies or some adventure with her toys. 

Eventually people were trying to dissuade Samantha from calling me “that guy.”  Well if the ‘that guy’ moniker was off the table then she had to transition to a different label.  The only thing her little brain could come up with is ‘granddad’.  Now you may think that this implies that she thought of me as ancient.  Go ahead get your laughs in.  Truth is that everyone reading this is ancient from her perspective. 

The reality is that Samantha is around my dad quite a bit.  If you were to see my dad and me side by side you’d have no doubt that we are related.  I’m simply a slightly younger version of him.  We look a lot alike.  In many ways we even sound and act alike.  My wife has been known, with a sarcastic smirk, to call me ‘Glen’ when I say something just like my dad or when I show some similar trait that my father and his father before him also demonstrated.  So when my niece needs a label for the new guy so that he can get down on the floor of her world and play in her adventures, she uses a point of reference.  I look like granddad.  She likes granddad.  Granddad is good to her.  Therefore, she attaches the grand title to me.

It seems to me that this is a wonderful picture of what it is to be a disciple of Jesus. The apostle John writes it this way, “By this we will know that we are in Jesus: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (I John 2:6)   Do people look at you and me and say, “He/she looks a lot like Jesus”?  Is the family resemblance there?  Would they say, “He/she must be a child of the King, I see a lot of God in him/her”?

However, I think it goes beyond that.  Not only is this a wonderful picture of what it is to be a disciple, but also it is a great snapshot of what it means to be a disciple maker.  Of course, Jesus told us all to be disciple makers: “Go and make disciples…” (Matt 28:18-20)  The apostle Paul gives us one key aspect of what it means to be a disciple maker.  He writes, “Be imitators of me, just as I am of Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:1) The people that I am discipling ought to start looking like me.  Not physically (shudder), but spiritually.  Maybe even in some ways socially and emotionally.

If I am decreasing, but Jesus is increasing in my life; if I am continually yielding more to Him; if I am dying to myself daily; if I am taking up my cross and following Him; if I am reckoning myself as dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus; if I am counting all things as loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord; if I am a living billboard of ‘Christ in me the hope of glory’; if I am exercising His gifts within me; if I am overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit; if I am seeking to see the lost saved; if I am making disciples myself; if people can see Jesus in me similarly to how Samantha sees my dad in me – then I can, with Paul, challenge you to be imitators of me, just as I am of Christ. It is okay for you to look like me IF I look like Christ.  Can people say of you, “I want to look like you because I see Jesus in you”?

By Jeff Miller, District Superintendent