God's love / Grace / Integrity / Judging / Righteousness / Why follow Jesus

What are you like to be around?

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. [Matthew 4:18-20 NIV].  As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” [Matthew 9:9 NIV].

It is very easy to rush these passages without pausing to reflect on what really transpired. Put yourself in the place of Peter, Andrew or Matthew. They had families to feed when Jesus called them to walk away from their jobs and follow Him. I don’t know too many people who have walked away from their jobs but people that do, tend to have a plan. These men had no plan! What was it like to quit a job to follow someone who was not rich and didn’t even have a house of His own? If it was easy, what did they see or hear that made it easy for them to walk away from everything else? If it was hard, what convinced them that they were doing the right thing? They weren’t rabbis, priests or scribes who were going into full-time temple service, they were just ordinary people.

One thing is certain, they saw something in Jesus that was unique. We can safely say there was no halo, no luminous presence or otherworldly voice that distinguished Jesus from the ordinary person. Nothing identified Jesus as God. So, what drew them must have been Jesus Himself. They had never encountered someone with His personality. John, one of the twelve men who followed Jesus across the country for 3 years, tells us Jesus brought grace and truth to this world [John 1:17]. He wrote those words several decades after Jesus had returned to heaven. Jesus left an unrivalled impression on these men.

Here was a Man who was full of grace and lived life to the full. It must have been exciting and compelling when Jesus challenged social and religious norms as He revealed what God was really like. Here was a Man who never gossiped or bore grudges. He was never proud, bitter or anxious, never lusted after wealth, fame or power. Here was a Man who had the perfect relationship with His Father. He was confident in His identity, saw the best in everyone and loved them for who they were. Here was a Man nicknamed the Friend of sinners [Matthew 11:16-19], who was perfect but never made you feel inadequate because of your flaws. He made you feel and know you were special and valued, He always gave you His full attention. The only people who couldn’t hang around Jesus were hypocrites and those who didn’t want to be told the truth about themselves or life.

Jesus was no miserable ascetic; He must have been a winsome character and amazing company – with crowds and individuals alike. He calls His followers to be like Him. So, what are we like to be around? Do people enjoy your company or breathe a sigh of relief when you leave? Do you treat everyone like they matter or do you see, colour, status, sex, creed, race, etc? Do you make people feel important or do you let them know you are important? What is your default facial expression? As someone put it: do you have a “Yes” face or a “No” face? A good personality test is how comfortable children are around you. Jesus was great with children and they loved Him [Matthew 19:13-14], can the same be said about you?

Jesus also loved the people around Him enough to confront them about the things they were doing wrong. He spoke the truth, not in a judgemental way but in a way that demonstrated loved and convinced them, even when His message was tough, that He wanted the best for them. How do we compare in this regard? Do we confront others with a heart that only seeks to restore them and bring about their highest good? Even though Jesus had the right and the authority to judge and condemn others, He chose to offer love and mercy instead. No wonder the sinners enjoyed his company, no wonder none of the Twelve ever went back to their jobs permanently even after Jesus left them.

Interestingly, none of the gospel writers presents Jesus as politically correct, He did not condone evil or lower God’s standards. He stood up for righteousness and lived a life above reproach. We cannot be sinless like Jesus but we can live lives above reproach. Do you make excuses for your failings rather than deal with them? Are you a brilliant defence attorney for yourself but a judge for others? What would happen if your life was put under scrutiny? Are you on the inside what you portray on the outside? Hypocrisy is something Jesus condemned strongly [Matthew 23:27-28], yet, how often are we Christians hypocrites? Isn’t hypocrisy in the church and amongst Christians one of the main reasons people don’t take the Gospel seriously?

Jesus chose us to carry on the mission of spreading His Gospel [Matthew 28:19-20]. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to reflect Him in our encounters with others. Some of us are the only Bible others will read and it will be very difficult to draw them to Jesus with “No” faces and unendearing personalities.

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