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What Would Jesus Do? – Example vs. Mission November 12, 2015

Posted by TJ Friend in Encouragements.
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All my life in Church I’ve heard this message over and over. We are supposed to be like Christ. That is literally what it means to be a “Christian”. There was even that whole WWJD craze back in the 90’s that was supposed to encourage people to follow Christ in their actions and choices. All of this is good stuff. This is probably the core of the faith, that we live our lives as Christ lived his, by loving people and carrying forth the message of hope that he came to bring. What I am saying is that this is an incomplete picture. There is more to following Jesus then simply doing what he did.

I want to pose two answers to the question “What would Jesus do?”. These two ideas answer that question in different ways and so lead to different results. When I think about Jesus’ life and how he lived I see two main categories, which I will call example and mission. Following Jesus’ example means that we live out the same values that he lived out. Jesus lived out the values Christians should live out as well. He embodied all of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:21-22). He lived a sinless life in continuous relationship with the Father. He showed what it means to serve (one example is when he washed his disciples feet) and exemplified true sacrifice by dying on a cross for our sins. He showed us not only what prayer should look like, but set an example of continually going off by himself to commune with God. He taught and lived out many other values that we need to follow today like meekness, justice, finances, relationships, honesty, integrity, and discipline. I don’t want to spend too much time on this aspect, because this is what we commonly think of when we think about following Jesus. Basically, it is living in such a way that people get a picture of what Jesus was like, or at the very least people see the influence of Jesus on your life.

The other side of this though is the idea of mission. Jesus lived a highly focused life based on the purposes God had for him. Jesus had a specific mission for his life. He knew where his life was headed and limited himself to doing things that fit into that mission. There are a lot things that characterize Jesus’ mission, but I want to focus on three things.

First and foremost, Jesus’ mission entailed him going to the cross. Jesus knew this. He even warned his disciples many times that this was going to happen. Because he knew what was ahead, he wasn’t upset when Judas betrayed him. He didn’t call down angels to save him from the cross and he endured it all without accusing people or trying to defend himself. Because of his conviction, when Peter rebuked him, Jesus was able to recognize the attack of the enemy on his mission. He knew he was going to the cross and lived his life accordingly.

Second, his mission was to start a movement. He had a few short years to impart this message of salvation to 12 ordinary men. Because he knew that his time was limited, he focused his efforts on his disciples. He took them around with him on his travels and empowered them to do the things he had been doing, so that the mission would not die with him. He wasn’t interested in a lot of people knowing the basics of what he was teaching. Instead he wanted a few people to catch a hold of the vision and have it burn into their being so that it transformed their entire lives. He went so far as to hide from crowds or give such difficult teachings that only those who were fully invested would stay. He wasn’t interested in popularity or hype. He was focused on those who truly desired to follow him.

Third, Jesus explicitly says that he came for “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt 15:24). He knew his mission was to Israel. He spent his time going to different cities in Israel so that they could hear the message. The people he healed or cleansed of demons were for the most part Israelites. There were a few exceptions, but that is just what they were exceptions. He wasn’t going out of his way to help those outside of Israel, because he knew that wasn’t what he was called to do. Compare this with Paul who was “the apostle to the Gentiles”. Paul recognized that he had a different mission from those before him. He was to bring the message of salvation outside the people of Israel and offer it to the Gentiles.

What I am saying is that Jesus mission on earth was not something we can simply copy as our own mission. When thinking about the question what would Jesus do, we need to realize that some of the things he did were a part of the specific mission for his life and not necessarily for us. We all have a unique mission that God has for our lives, that is completely different from that of Jesus. We are obviously not all called to minister only to Gentiles, or die on a cross. In the same way, there are things we are called to do that Jesus was not called to do as part of his mission.

There is definitely some overlap. Just as Jesus made disciples, we too are called to make disciples. We need to be proclaiming the message that Jesus came to impart to the world. We need to pray and have faith and surround ourselves with other believers.

My desire is that every Christian would seek to understand their mission in life. Once you know what God is calling you to do with your life, you can align your behaviors and lifestyle to fit with that mission. If you are called to serve in the Church, you can pray to see how you can best serve and encourage those in the Church. If you are called to business, you can focus on exemplifying Christ in the workplace or supporting missionaries. If your mission is just to stay at home and raise your kids you can do it with confidence, knowing that God has you there for a reason. Whatever mission God has for you, do it to the best of your ability and use it as a standard for what you should or shouldn’t be doing. If someone feels called to minister to people in prison, then they should spend time ministering to people in prison, and not trying to be a light in Hollywood, or whatever other random idea that sounds good. Knowing what God has called you to do allows you to say no to things that may be good, but don’t line up with what God wants you to do.

One of the problems in the Church is that people have a vague idea of their mission, or maybe even no idea at all. So, instead of investing in the things God has for them, they either don’t do anything or do a bunch or random things with no focus. The former leads to consumer Christians who don’t contribute anything and are just looking to get fed from the Church. The latter leads to mediocrity or frustration, because you end up doing things just to do them, even if God isn’t in them. When we step into what God is calling us to do with our lives, we can be intentional and God can use us more than we could think or imagine. Jesus’ life was so focused that what he left behind is still going and growing to this day. He wants our lives to leave an impact as well. Even if what you are doing doesn’t seem spiritual, if you are following what God has called you to do, He will use you to impact the lives of those around you. In this light the question isn’t “what would Jesus do?”, but “what does Jesus want to do through me?” WDJWTDTM