Every so often I a well-meaning soul will write something along the lines of, “Don’t be a Christian. Be Christ-like.” Their intent is probably good–trying to create distance from the cultural caricature of Christians–but the statement is fundamentally flawed.
The message of Christianity is so much more than, “be like Jesus.” Being like Jesus is, after all, something that we can probably manage. It’s a moral statement. It means be kind, be sacrificial, be justice-seeking, etc.
There’s something of a cottage industry of scholars and popular writers who have baptized their own prior beliefs by appealing to Jesus.
The message of Christianity is more than be like Jesus. Instead, the message of Christianity is that we are to be in Christ:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…
So writes Paul in his letter to the Galatians (2:20). He further concludes his letter to the Romans (16:7) with the greetings:
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and fellow prisoners. They are well known [among] the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
Simply being like Jesus is not enough. In fact, being like Jesus is impossible. Instead, being united to Christ is the essence of Christianity. Indeed, only those united to Christ will be able to live in the kingdom of heaven.