What Would Your Jesus Do?

The next time you hear someone ask the now (in)famous question “what would Jesus do” in reference to a real-life situation, try to pay careful attention to the answer. I’ll bet that more often than not it will involve something to do with helping, accepting, and/or loving people.

And that’s certainly understandable. After all, Jesus wasn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty to help people (figuratively and literally!). He often associated with people that others found culturally and morally objectionable. And of course, no one has ever loved like Jesus loved.

It’s hard to overestimate how important these descriptions are to understanding who Jesus is. But as crucial as they may be, they don’t give us the whole picture.

For example, listen to the way one of Jesus’ closest disciples describes him:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

That same disciple later wrote a letter that promised that the “grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ…will be with us in truth and love” (2 John 1:3; my emphasis in both passages).

In Jesus, love and grace are perfectly complimentary with truth. One doesn’t obscure or marginalize the other. And we see this work out itself out in several ways in Jesus’ life and ministry.

When a rich young man with a flawed perspective of his own righteousness comes to Jesus asking how he can inherit eternal life, Mark tells us that Jesus “looked at him and loved him” before exposing him to the difficult truth that he valued his riches more than he valued Jesus. Mark adds that the man “went away sad.”

Most Jews would have avoided the Samaritan woman that Jesus talks with in John 4 for at least two reasons: she was a Samaritan (and thus considered to be racially and religiously polluted) and she led a morally challenged life (married five times and currently living with someone who was not her husband). Jesus isn’t turned away by those things, but he’s also not afraid to tell her that she needs to change the way she thinks about worshipping God: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).

In Matthew 16, Jesus describes Peter as “blessed” and “the rock” on whom he will build his church. But just a few verses later, Jesus addresses Peter in this way: “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me” (see vv. 13-23). Why the difference? In the first case Peter confesses who Jesus really is. In the second, he attempts to rebuke Jesus after he tells him he must be killed and rise again. In one instance Peter is aligned with the truth. In the other he’s fighting against it.

Nor was Jesus shy in calling out the erroneous beliefs of those who opposed him. For example, he tells one group of Jewish religious leaders who don’t believe in the resurrection from the dead, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:23-32). And far from adopting a “live and let live” attitude toward the teachers of the law and Pharisees, he levels some very sobering criticism: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to” (Matthew 23:13, see vv. 13-39).

These examples could be multiplied many times over. But why is it that Jesus seems to place such a high value on truth? Because he knows that truth is essential ingredient for our well-being. In fact, without it, we will never experience the freedom and life we ultimately long for. Perhaps that shouldn’t surprise us, given how Jesus identifies himself: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6; emphasis mine).

And where does that leave us if we want to believe in and follow the real Jesus? Certainly, we’ll want to seek out to know truth. And to that end we’ll want to pray, both for ourselves and for others. We’ll love others, even sacrificially. But our love won’t “delight in evil” but will rather “rejoice in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). While we won’t adopt a condemning attitude toward others, we will exercise proper judgment and discernment, particularly when it comes to the truth of the gospel. We’ll stand firm in and with the truth. And we’ll share it with others, wisely and fearlessly.

Or to put it another way, we’ll do what Jesus would do.

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