“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
CERTAIN PARTS OF JESUS’ WAY OF LIFE ARE POPULAR AND FREQUENTLY PRAISED. When we want support for our viewpoint, there always seems to be some aspect of Jesus’ teaching and lifestyle that we can appeal to. And whatever our theology or sociology, we can find a favorite angle from which to admire Jesus.
The problem is, we tend to “cherry pick” the examples of Jesus, taking the ones we like and leaving the others aside. If there is something Jesus did that seems extreme, unrealistic, or unreasonable, we respond to that text with a quick “yes but.” To an objective outsider, it would almost seem that we limit our imitation of Jesus’ example to what is “trending” at the present moment.
Today, of course, we face many dilemmas that have no specific precedent in Jesus’ life two thousand years ago. “What would Jesus do?” is always the right question to ask, but getting a helpful answer to that can be difficult. It requires wisdom and discernment — and these things come from much study, thought, and prayer, not to mention a good deal of hard and painful experience.
Rightly answering “What would Jesus do?” requires, above all, learning the character of Jesus. When we study the stories of His teaching and His behavior, we are wanting to learn His principles, His values, His likes and dislikes. We won’t follow Jesus’ example faithfully if we haven’t learned to think as He does. And learning to think as He does is what growth in Christ is all about.
Jesus, however, must be more than just our Example. He came into the world, first and foremost, to be our Savior. And if we have not accepted His salvation from our sins, His example will do us little good. But if He is first our Savior and then our Example, look at what happens. By coming penitently to Jesus — seeking first the forgiveness of our sins and then committing ourselves to live by His example — we become an example that helps other people come to Christ. The process repeats itself from person to person.
In his life, Christ is an example, showing us how to live.
In his death, he is a sacrifice, satisfying for our sins.
In his resurrection, he is a conqueror.
In his ascension, he is a king.
In his intercession, he is a high priest.