By Ed Barnett … Jesus was the ultimate example of Christianity. It is through Jesus that we hear and learn how to live the Christian life. Christianity is not easy; it goes against our grain as selfish, sinful human beings. I have four wonderful and bright grandsons and yet, with each of them, I see their selfish nature come through. We are simply born into sin. It is simply something that every one of us must fight daily. Jesus makes it clear that others are to be the top priority for Christians.
May I take you through several Bible passages that Jesus shared clarifying what a Christian should be like?
Mathew 7:12—The Golden Rule: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the Prophets.” That is not easy to do because of our sinful nature. Just going to church for a couple of hours a week won’t give you the change of heart to really live by that model that Jesus gives us in the Golden Rule. Just having your name on a membership list in the Seventh-day Adventist Church won’t help you to live by that model.
Another passage from Jesus is found in Matthew 22:37-40: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
I believe that everyone we encounter is our “neighbor” and these verses tell us we need to “love them like ourselves.” Notice there is no qualification for what that person may look like, what nationality they are. There is no mention of whether they are male or female. No mention of the political party they support or their religion. There are simply no qualifications specified. This says to me we must love everyone no matter what walk in life they represent. That is not always easy as you may hate what your neighbor stands for. Yet Jesus says you still need to love them.
There is another verse that many Christians struggle with and I see people struggling with it often in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Notice what Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-2: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
This is a tough verse. Often in our churches, I hear people judging other people. It may be about what they wear. It may be what they brought to potluck: “It had cheese in it.” It may be they are judgmental about the pastor, or the pastor’s wife. It may be about the Conference leadership or another local church. It may be about someone else’s Sabbath observance. The list could go on forever.
In the beatitudes, (Matthew 5:2-12): Jesus speaks to His people:
“Blessed are the poor in Spirit”
“Blessed are those who mourn”
“Blessed are the meek”
“Blessed are those who hunger”
“Blessed are the merciful”
“Blessed are the pure in heart”
“Blessed are the peacemakers”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted”
At the end of the list, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil again you because of me.”
We struggle at times with the list of special people God identifies in the Beatitudes. It is not easy to meet people who “insult and persecute you.”
But God calls us to do all these things if we are truly Christian.
Matthew 7:13,14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” It is easier to just join the crowd and go merrily through life doing what you want to do. To me Jesus also insinuates in these verses that His ”way” is hard to follow; it’s a narrow path on the way to heaven.
Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.’” Jesus makes it clear that there are people who think they are followers of Christ, but are they really? They may even have done good things, but Jesus says: “I never knew you.”
It is easy to be called a Christian and to go to church for a couple of hours a week. It’s a lot harder to truly be a Christian and live life in the unselfish way Jesus asks us to live; to live life for others instead of self. The only way to live the way Jesus calls us to live is by spending time with Him every day. And you cannot do it on your own! It is only through God’s power that you can live the successful Christian life. It is all about Him!
–Ed Barnett is RMC president. Email him at: [email protected]