The importance of insisting on Christlike character

This is a post I have written, or attempted to write, several times in the past. And I am writing it once again, because the truth of these sentiments struck me with renewed force.
In short, when I talk about looking for a husband who is aggressively striving after the character of Christ, I sincerely mean someone who is aggressively striving after the character of Christ.
I do not mean someone who is a lovely and kind Christian, although he has to be that too. I am not being glib when I say that that is not what I mean. I am not downplaying how amazing it is when someone is truly lovely and kind. I have known many such people, and they have all been truly special people. Some of those people who are no longer in my life, I still remember with a mixture of fondness and sadness. And yet even with all that, even as I think on those happy memories, still I insist that it is not enough. Perhaps a lovely and kind Christian would have been enough if I was not a Biblist. But i am a Biblist, so I have to marry someone else who is also a Biblist. And that means literally striving aggressively after Christlike character. Not for the sake of attacking anyone else, or trying to wage any kind of holy war against other people. Rather, it is for the sake of being as much like Jesus as possible, and walking in His truth AND grace.

I have previously written about a number of things that seem to approximate to “an aggressive pursuit of Christlike character”, but are not the same thing. You have to carefully evaluate people to make sure that they are truly striving after God Himself, rather than the trappings of being associated with God.
Being very prominent in church, being very vocal on Facebook or other social media about their faith, being able to pray very long and eloquent prayers, always going around telling other people about God, these may all seem like demonstrations of an aggressive pursuit of Christ. And yet don’t be deceived. There are many people who do all, or many of those things. And yet their hearts are far from God. AS it happens I do all of those things. I have to keep evaluating my own heart to make sure that it is God I am putting at the centre, rather than myself. However there are some people I have come across who don’t seem to have God at the centre of it all, and never have. Especially in an environment that is as faith-oriented as my own, this kind of fluent “Christianese” is simply the language that people often feel that they have to adopt to get by, or to be taken seriously by other people. Many times it is sincere, but many times too it is not.

You know, for what feels like the first time as I am writing this post, I realise how fortunate I am to have been brought up in such a thoroughly Christian environment like Nigerian Yoruba culture. Actually, many Yorubas are Muslim too. However, because the people I associate with are Christians, because most of the places I go to socially are somehow connected with church, I scarcely know such people. For what is definitely the first time, I realise how fortunate I am to have my deeply Christian Yoruba heritage on one hand…juxtaposed with an insistently agnostic UK culture on the other. So all the Yorubas are acting like “Well of course there is a God” while other Western friends seem to be saying “Belief in God is so backward!” And having those two aspects so close to one another has allowed me to compare and contrast, and hone my faith with these considerations, even without my consciously realising that that was what I was doing.

Such has been the thoroughness of my Christian upbringing that I am firmly in the Christian camp, and that is where I am staying. (As I have often noted, there are Christians, and there are Christians. And then there is my Dad.) and it is also about the fact that everyone who surrounds me is a Christian. There is such a strong, established network of faith that it takes very little effort on my own part for my faith to be kept afloat. In the midst of this all though, I still do invest lots of effort to make sure that my faith is not just floating along in the current of Yoruba culture, but I am genuinely connecting with God. Well perhaps the truth here is that lovely and kind people do genuinely connect with God. They do genuinely love God, and serve Him. They are real Christians. They feel His presence in their lives, and He guides them. However, as amazing as these things are, they are not enough.

I am writing this post to remind myself, but I am also writing this post for anyone else out there. Don’t settle for having a real relationship with God, as amazing as that in itself is. And don’t settle romantically for someone who has a real relationship with God. If you are new to faith, then discovering that God is actually real is mindblowing. But yet there is more. Press in deeper into His word, into His truth.

You know what? I believe that the Word of God is true, and God is real, as I have demonstrated in my life countless times. Everything in my life is a testament to the power of God. I sincerely believe that God’s word becomes truer and truer and more and more powerful the more we press into Him. I once expressed this on Facebook and someone, a fellow Christian, challenged me on it. Well the fact is that God’s word is, objectively 100% true. So it is like a mountain that is objectively 800 metres tall. And yet while the mountain is objectively 800 metres tall no matter how close we stand to it, it is also relatively taller the closer we get to it. Well God’s truth is unlike a mountain in that we can keep pressing in indefinitely, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and more true and more real.

If you are reading this, and maybe you have tried God before, and you see that faith has merit, but it just does not seem to have worked for you, can I invite you to press deeper in? Literally give God your everything, including any anger you may feel towards Him, or your less than positive emotions. Tell God all the ugly things that you would rather not admit to Him, or indeed to anyone else. You know, I always think that God can see them anyway, so there is no point acting like they don’t exist! Sometimes it might be tempting to only present our most positive self to God, but I think that this introduces an artificiality to our faith which can be tiring to keep up. Honestly, I have expressed to God all my most intimate thoughts. No matter how close I yearn to be with my husband, there are still, obviously, countless things that I will not share with Him. But God gets them instead. All my joy, all my anger, all my pettiness, or even the most mundane aspects of life. I encourage you to share all such things with God, be real with Him, and don’t be afraid to cry.

Also, read the Bible. I mean, saturate yourself in it. You know, I pray and pray and pray and pray. Prayer is my thing spiritually. And yet I never truly feel God, or hear from Him, unless I read the Bible. Honestly, my prayers themselves often feel empty at times when I have not been reading the Bible. And yet, I still persevere with them because from experience I know God still hears me, and answers my prayers. On that note – picks up Bible!

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