5 Priorities that Guided Jesus' Decisions
I used to wear a bracelet on my wrist with four letters: WWJD—What Would Jesus Do? For me it served as a moral compass, helping me apply abstract elements of my faith to the practical questions I face each day.
But, as simple as it seems, sometimes the question—What would Jesus do? — still leaves me wondering.
I'm hustling out the door to church. I glance in the mirror and see my neighbor. She's a single mom working alone to clear her yard of branches from last night’s storm. Should I stop the car, go back inside, and change my clothes, skip church today, and prove to your neighbor you love her. What would Jesus do?
We have lots ofchances to build good connections with our neighbors. But now, my new neighbors are two men in a "domestic partnership." Do we take them the same housewarming gift we've always given new neighbors? Are we condoning their lifestyle? Or are we being "friends of sinners" (see Matt. 11:19)? What would Jesus do?
I've been setting aside money to donate to the construction of a new ministry center at our church. The expansion is necessary. But on the day I intend to write my cheque, I discover that an unemployed friend is in danger of losing his house. What would Jesus do?
This question implies that we know the answer to another question: What DID Jesus do? The best way to determine what someone might do in a situation, is to look at what they did in a similar situation. With that in mind, I looked at the four gospels with these questions in mind and discovered five priorities that guided Jesus:
1. He sought His Father
Jesus demonstrated His need and dependency on God by seeking him continually in prayer. Forty-five times the gospels tell us that Jesus went alone to pray. Every aspect of his life and ministry was saturated with prayer.
The book of Mark gives us a picture of Jesus early in his ministry. His life was full of people, and their needs. Jesus ministered around the clock. Still, he would make time to meet with His Father and gain His help as He concentrated on His purposes. He would find time to pray because He knew how necessary it was.
If Jesus needed to pray…
2. He embraced the outcasts
Jesus demonstrated the love of God by accepting the discarded of society. This provoked anger from the religious establishment. But Jesus was much less worried than most about embracing the sinful and sickly, the unseemly and unimportant.
Luke 5 is a good example. One of the disciples "held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them" (v. 29). On the social scale of the day, tax collectors landed somewhere between a pimp and something that crawls out from under a rock. An upstanding individual would not associate with them at all. But Jesus not only talked to Levi, he asked the man to become his disciple.
How does knowing this affect our attitudes and actions towards Syrian refugees, the homeless, drug addicts, the gay community, those in prison, Muslims and the list seems endless.
3. He restored broken lives
Spirit, Jesus provided for people's physical and financial needs. He cast out demons, healed broken bodies, raised the dead and forgave the sins of the guilty. Including me! Jesus proved that God's power is sufficient to meet every need. And the Scriptures promise us that the same power works in and through our lives today.
Jesus operated on the assumption that we have a wonder-working God who delights in restoring lives that seem irrevocably shattered. Jesus saw the people around him as miracles waiting to happen. He saw people, not as they were at that moment, but what they could be if His Father could get hold of them. He saw potential in the least obvious people. And when He saw it, He dedicated Himself to change the potential into reality.
Do we? Can we?
4. He confronted hypocrisy
Jesus demonstrated the heart of God by standing against lifeless religion. He openly confronted religious hypocrisy, inciting opposition that ultimately led to his execution. Jesus repeatedly rebuked religious people who buried the heart of God in their man-made traditions. He cleared the temple because people were using God's house for their own gain.
I must be careful with this principle. Sometimes, when I'm looking for an excuse to be "righteously indignant," it can come in a little too handy. I fancy myself following in Jesus' steps. However, my outbursts have usually been more about my anger than God's righteousness.
But Jesus reserved His anger for those who hurt the people He loved. Whether they were hurting them financially, weighing them down with ridiculous religious tradition or excluding them from God’s grace because they were not good enough.
What would Jesus do? He would go on record against people who act in the name of God to hurt others. He'd stand up against crusaders parading with signs that venomously attack and label others. And he'd speak out against those who profit from the oppressed but who claim their God is full of compassion.
Are we willing to do the same?
5. He served
Service marked Jesus' life from start to finish. He served through sacrifice, putting the needs of others above his own. At the last supper, he put on a towel and washed his disciples' feet. His life of service culminated at the cross, where He died to pay our spiritual debt.
Sometimes I feel I'm so busy doing God's work that I don't have time for people. But God's work is people! His business is helping a homeless couple find shelter before nightfall. His business is reading the Bible with a new Christian. His business is pushing a stalled car through the intersection and taking that midnight phone call from a struggling friend. His business is staying home from church to help a single mom. His business is welcoming the new couple to the neighborhood.
What would Jesus do?
He would seek the Father for the strength and wisdom to embrace, restore, confront and serve the people around him. These priorities should drive us back to the Bible to take a fresh look at how Jesus lived.
Keep asking ourselves—What would Jesus do?
It's a great question.