Who in your family do you most resemble? Characteristics sometimes dwell in the personality. My husband has often heard, “You are just like Uncle Don!” (Was this a compliment or a criticism??) More often it’s a physical likeness: “He looks just like his Daddy!” “She has her Mommy’s smile.”
Several years ago as my daughter and I walked in a New York City park, a man stumbled unsteadily toward us. He hesitated as he neared, murmuring something under his alcohol perfumed breath. When he passed we became aware that he spoke more loudly. We turned just in time to overhear, “Oh no, there are two of them!” That we resemble each other wasn’t an unusual observation; people often comment on our likeness. But this particular time, the man in his less-than-coherent state thought he might be experiencing unnerving double vision.
Lately I’ve been reading Michael Green’s Thirty Years That Changed the World. What I find intriguing is how Green uses extra biblical sources to illuminate the life and times of the first century Christians. Records are rich with descriptions of these history making, history changing people. Green goes into detail about their characteristics. In contrast to their culture, Green says they—so new to revolutionary belief in Jesus—were outrageously generous, powerful, courageous, faith filled, enthusiastic and so much more.
Green explains that it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “’Christians,’ a term obviously related to the Christ, but its form is interesting.” He goes on to describe that members of Emperor Augustus’ imperial court were called Augustiani, people who “represented the emperor, reported to him, administered his lands and preserved his interests… (when Christians) were given the nickname Christiani, they did not disclaim it… their speech, behaviour, way of life, reminded people of the relationship between the Augustiani and the emperor.”
These paragraphs enlightened and informed me but it was one sentence that stopped me in my tracks. “To put it bluntly, they reminded people of Jesus.” Their likeness to the one they loved was so striking that people of all walks of life not only noticed but were amazed. Secular historians of the time repeatedly record descriptions that we covet could be written of us:
They do not practice great speeches, but they exhibit good works. When struck, they do not strike back. When robbed, they do not go to law. They give to those that ask of them…with them temperance dwells, self-restraint is practiced, monogamy observed, chastity guarded, righteousness exercised, worship performed, God acknowledged. Truth governs them, grace guards them, peace screens them, and the holy word guides.
Quite simply they looked, acted, lived like Jesus. They weren’t clones but the family resemblance was unmistakable.
Will I remind anyone of Jesus today?