Last week I discussed who we should seek for knowledge as to what we should do now that we have been given the Kingdom. It is now time to turn to the question of what we should do. The question is often asked “What Would Jesus Do?”, so much so that an entire line of accessories has evolved with the acronym WWJD. There is nothing inherently wrong with this question or the items that carry this message. It is more of a statement of what you believe than an ongoing question one is having with oneself. In the end we all, in our hearts, know what Jesus would do in any given situation. This is even more the case when we consider that we don’t really need to ask this question. It is an irrelevant question because we already know the answer. We already know what Jesus did do by simply referring to the New Testament.
So, from the New Testament, what can we take as to what Jesus did? I think it can be fairly summarized into three broad categories of actions. Why three? Because of the trinity of course, duh! The three main things Jesus consistently did in His earthly life were, forgive, include and sacrifice. This is not the sum of His earthly ministry, but I think it fairly gets at the heart of it. I would note that the umbrella under which all these three actions take place is the call of all people to God, which was the point of His entire ministry.
Jesus consistently forgave and continually calls us to forgive. Just to cite a few passages: Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ ” (one of my most favorite passages) and perhaps most stunningly of all Luke 23:34 “father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”, when Jesus forgave those who were in the process of killing Him. I could go on and on, but the point is clear; Jesus forgives all, even those who do not ask for forgiveness. Of note is the point that we should forgive as God has forgiven us. This fits nicely with the perspective that we do what we do because of what God has done for us. So, if we wish to emulate Jesus, then we can well start with forgiving others.
The next thing we should consider is that Jesus went out of His way to include the previously excluded. This manifested itself in scandalous ways. He included those on the extreme margins of society, prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans, women generally and mostly the poor. Jesus went out of His way to call these types of people to Himself and to make sure they knew that they were loved and wanted by God. He also wanted to make clear to those who had excluded them that they knew that these people were loved and wanted by God. It is not that Jesus claimed that God didn’t love the well off or those in command of society, it’s just that He wanted to specifically extend God’s arms around those who had been excluded since well… forever. I will not burden the reader with a list of passages as it should be evident to even a causal reader of Scripture that Jesus was all about bringing into the fold those who had been systematically excluded. I will only cite perhaps the most famous example Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”. If we truly wish to follow Jesus, then we better get about including the meek in everything we do.
The final thing we should note about what Jesus did on earth was to sacrifice. Of course, from an eschatological point of view this is what Jesus came to do. He came to die for us. I do not wish to reopen the discussing of substitutionary atonement from last week, but in some fashion or other Jesus was willing to die to complete His ministry. However, His sacrifice goes deeper than just that. The entire process of God sending His son to take upon Himself our humanity and to then live a completely and fully human life is itself stunningly sacrificial. It is best summed up by Philippians 2:7-8 “but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” Everything about Jesus’ life cries out SACRIFICE!!! If we are to attempt to emulate Christ, then we must take the attitude of a servant.
I know these are very general, broad attitudes to consider. However, when we place ourselves in the frame of mind to forgive, include and sacrifice then we clarify the issues of our daily lives in a very real manner. We know in our heart what it is that Jesus wants us to do and we know intellectually that we will fail to do it as Jesus Himself did it. If, though we keep in mind this Holy Trinity of a Jesus disposition, we just might find ourselves living at least a little bit more like Jesus and proclaiming in word and deed just what God has given humanity through Christ our Savior. Or as the late great John Prine sang it’s “The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can.” That’s a doable Christmas goal we can all get behind with a focus on what Jesus actually did while on earth.
Praise Be to God