“Less of me and more of Christ.”
“I need to empty myself and be a vessel filled by the Spirit.”
These comments evoke John the Baptist’s words, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), or the Apostle Paul’s, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). And indeed, we hope that Jesus is more prominent than ourselves. We want our selfishness to be increasingly jettisoned, and we know that we will have more of Jesus when we see him face-to-face. But, we also have no reason to envision some kind of personal extinction as if we were possessed by or absorbed into Jesus. Somehow as we have more of Christ, we also become more ourselves.
I was out to dinner with my wife and some good friends recently. As I enjoyed edifying conversation and hearing about details from their lives, it was clear that this was much better than an evening alone with a piece of pizza and the New Yorker. Somehow, in fellowship with others, I came home more fully me. They sparked interests, gave new perspectives, let me see the work of the Spirit in them, and were people to love. I came home feeling a little more alive. I knew more of how I fit into the larger body of Christ. Fellowship makes us more fully ourselves.
I remember when I first noticed a fuller Moses while reading Scripture. Moses has an interesting biography, but you see him in his fullest form when he is engaged in relationships. Watch him engage with the Lord (Ex. 33). Moses makes it clear that they were not moving if only an angel led them. It was the Lord or nothing. And then watch him as he stands on behalf of Miriam after her actions against him (Num. 12). When you see Moses personally involved with the Lord and with his people, he so often looks magnificent.
We were made to lose ourselves but not by being identical to the Lord or anonymous to other people. We were created to walk with them, fit with them, complement and love them. Faith itself is relational engagement in which we know and respond to Jesus. And, when faith and love are animated in our relationships, we look more unique, more full of life because this is God’s intent for us and this is how the Spirit of God works among us.