Being like Christ has a lot to do with what Jesus did not do.
One of the things I love about Jesus is his refusal to be defined by the prejudice that controlled so much of society.
The pressure to conform to social expectation is often a powerful deterrent to living a Christlike life. Why? Because living that life means (among other things) to reach out to and associate with the outcasts.
What will they think of me if…? Association with the “wrong” people can earn a label for you by self-righteous pharisees.
Consider what they said about Jesus.
- “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Matthew 9:11)
- “….the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled” (Luke 19:7)
- “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!” (Luke 15:1-2)
“When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!’” (Luke 7:37-39).
Loving human praise more than the praise of God
The pressure to conform were so powerful that even though “many people did believe in him, including some of the Jewish leaders, they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43).
Even a clash between apostles
- Galatians 2:11-13 – The apostle Paul said, “when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”
This same emphasis is found repeatedly in the teaching of Jesus. He exalted and honored the “wrong” people in the eyes of self-righteous religious leaders. On one occasion, Jesus said to these people, “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do” (Matthew 21:31).
Jesus’ teaching was disruptive to the expectations of human pride — the reversal of the expected. In His kingdom, power is found in weakness; the poor are rich; the least are great and the great are least; the first are last and the last are first; the proud are resisted and humble are exalted.
Are we willing to risk being misunderstood, maligned, falsely charged and ostracized? This is a choice we will likely have to make if we want to live as Jesus lived.
A good word
“Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:16).