What do you think about Jesus?
Mahatma Gandhi once famously said, ‘I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.’
I have heard of so many stories of people turning their backs on Christianity because of what some Christian or some church did to them. And every time it hurts me, because that really should not be the case.
But I also have to wonder how many times I might have been that person, with someone’s eyes on me, expecting me to show them what it means to be a Christian and then leaving disappointed or hurt because I have gotten it wrong.
Who should we follow?
In the Bible we see Jesus’ offering a similar warning to the crowds, not to take their example from those who were known to be the religious people of His day:
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see.” – Matthew 23:2-5
In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes a little bit later, ‘Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ‘ which I think is a little bit better.
What Jesus was saying about the religious leaders of His time was that they were not following God but rather trying to get attention for themselves. Paul changes it up a bit by suggesting that people follow him as he follows Christ.
I would interpret Paul’s statement like this: when you see me following Jesus Christ – in His teachings and His actions – that is a good time to follow me. If what you’re looking at does not represent Christ, then stay far away.
Let it stand or fall on Jesus
When someone is considering a decision to become a Christian, I always encourage them to let the decision rest on the person of Jesus. After all, it really all is, and should be, about Him. He points us to God, He demonstrated that it was possible to live a life of no sin or compromise and He taught us how we could live a kingdom lifestyle.
It seems like a lot of leaders in the church today can fall prone to what the Pharisees suffered from and make it all about themselves. So I would echo Jesus’ words to not follow them, because they do not do what they say. But I would also encourage you with Paul’s words – to keep an eye on them and when how they live looks like what Jesus would do, then definitely feel free to follow them in that way.
But if you are someone thinking about faith in God today, I want to encourage you to go back to Jesus. Read one of the four gospel books in the Bible – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – to get some idea of the ways and words of Jesus and then make a decision based on Him. I did that thirty plus years ago and it has not always been easy by any means, but I have never had reason to look back.