By David McClister
In the previous article of this short series we noted that Jesus was very much concerned about the kind of influence He left before others, and He even refrained from activities in which He could have engaged simply because He was careful not to leave a wrong impression. Some stumbled in spite of Jesus’ perfect walk, but that was not at all intentional on Jesus’ part.
The third type of behavior we wish to examine in the light of Jesus’ example (the two already studied are morally questionable behavior and causing others to sin) also has to do with Jesus’ relations with others.
Would Jesus Live Day-To-Day Thinking Only Of Himself?
One of the most obvious features of the life of Christ was its lack of selfishness. Christ lived a life of giving to others, not of taking for self. He constantly thought about His fellow-man and his well-being, and He put that concern above the concern He had for Himself. It was this very quality which enabled Him to endure the cross for the sins of the world.
But this unselfish quality was not apparent only in the great things Christ did. We see it in everything He did. In Matthew 4, when He was tempted by Satan, He was prodded to think only of Himself (and His physical hunger), and to think of His own pride (and thus receive the kingdoms of the world). But in this hour, when He was not vulnerable, He still refused to think only of Himself. Had He thought of Himself and given in to Satan’s requests even in the least, it would have made it impossible for Him to be our Savior. Jesus is my Savior because He thought of me and my sin problem more than He thought of Himself; because He sacrificed His own comfort for the sake of my well-being. It might have seemed harmless to make just a small cake of bread for Himself, but to do even that would have meant that He was thinking of Himself first. Jesus was triumphant and He is Savior and Lord because He always thought of others. He lived for the sinner, not for self.
There is a single word which describes this attitude of Jesus perfectly. It is the Word love (in the sense of the Greek word agape). Everything Jesus did was motivated by His great love for the lost. In fact, it was the very reason He was sent (Jn. 3:16). What is this love Agape is that attitude (it is not primarily an emotion) which causes us to took for the good of others above our own good. It is that characteristic which causes us to sacrifice our pleasure for the welfare of another. This great love was a quality which lay deep in the heart of Christ and which consequently affected everything He did. It was nothing superficial, to be sure. If we are to be copiers of the example of Christ, then we must instill this same love for our fellow-man deep within us and allow it to govern our every thought and move.
The apostle Paul has given us the grandest description of true love to be found.
Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envietb not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh no account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
Note how the lack of any kind of selfishness pervades every characteristic of love which Paul mentions. It is this love which Jesus demands of all of His followers (Jn. 13:34-35). No one can say that he is a disciple of the Lord if he does not love his brethren or his fellow-man; if he will not sacrifice his own interests for the good of others, and do this every hour of every day (for such is the example of Christ). Love is not a once-ina-while thing; it works in all things all the time, and it is restlessly active (see 1 Jn. 3:13-18). Our Lord Himself said that unselfish love for all men is what makes a man like God (Matt. 5:43-48).
The point is clear. Jesus never thought only of Himself, and we, therefore, should put away all selfishness and replace it with love.
If we are going to be followers of Jesus, then we must follow His example in all things, It is not a matter of following 90 percent of His example, or even 99 percent of it. The Lord desires that our obedience be just as complete as we can possibly make it. The rich young man learned this truth the hard way (Matt. 19:16-22). If we truly follow Him, we will keep ourselves pure, set the right example before others, and exercise love towards all.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 6, p. 172
March 20, 1986