There are lots of options available to us when we start to ask the question, “What does it look like to faithfully live a life of following Jesus?”
I keep coming back to the cross.
Love is a huge category, and a good claim can be made for “love” as the defining marker of the Christian person or community.
But love is also a category amenable to all sorts of content. And in the Christian story, love is made known when the Father does not spare his own son but delivers him up for us all.
And, love is made known when the son so loves the world that he gives himself to the humbling of incarnation and the ultimate humiliation of death–so that we might live.
In biblical parlance, to be a son of someone is to be like that person. The son of righteousness is a righteous person. The son of man is a human being.
What does it mean to be a child of God? It is to live a life of sacrificial love that is most concretely displayed on the cross:
Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. (Ephesians 5:1, CEB)
Imitation of God entails imitation of the Christ who, in love, gave himself so that we might live.
I see an overtone of this even in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. What does it look like to love as God loves? It’s to love even in the face of persecution–to love the enemy and pray for him or her:
I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. (Matthew 5:44-48)
The love of God is shown in an indiscriminate showering of blessing. But, importantly, that means as well that the love of God overcomes resistance and persecution.
It is a love that turns the other cheek–exposing us to more shame.
It is a love that goes two miles rather than one–giving ourselves over to the enemy who would impress us for his own good.
This is the way of the cross. This is cruciform love.