There is much to say about Jesus and His sacrifice for humanity. Adam and Eve’s legacy to us was an eternal separation from God. The Christian faith recognizes that Jesus suffered and died to bring us back, reconciled to God. Jesus removed our shame and sin. Our big holidays focus on those sacrifices. Christmas (incarnation and birth), Palm Sunday (kingship), Good Friday (suffering and death), Easter (resurrection). But have we missed a critical point? Shouldn’t part of our focus be on how Jesus lived and who Jesus was? Isn’t the reason for His life to offer humanity an example to follow? This is important because Jesus may also be the most divisive person who ever lived. Are we to become like Jesus? Exactly what does that mean?
Whenever we read a story about Jesus, He was never without influence over those He met. Every person who encountered Jesus either rose or fell under His message. No one ever left an encounter with Jesus the same. All were affected in some way. There never was a middle ground! Jesus called all to make a clear choice. The same holds true for us today! You either trust in Jesus or you’re opposed to Him. With that thought, it is time to look at Jesus as a person, the person we are called to become.
(1 John 2:6)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”
Jesus’ messages to the world were provocative. While Jesus healed the sick, He challenged the leaders of His world. Jesus made some people angry. His message, “Change!” Change to what?
(Matthew 10:34) – “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
(Ephesians 6:17) – “….. and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Yes, Jesus was a good person. We can trust in His goodness instead of our own. God provided His Son to us for our comfort, salvation, and relief. Now comes the hard part. Getting to know Jesus personally so we can live like Him. And this is not an easy task. The hatred against Him is high. Jesus offers each person a choice, either follow Him or oppose Him. But what was Jesus really like? Jesus is also God! If we are to be like Jesus, what are His human characteristics? There are many and, in that point, lies the challenge to understand who Jesus was and how Jesus lived in our world. To help with this task is a list of recognized characteristics of Jesus. It is a long list, broken into groups with opportunities for self-reflection between each group.
Jesus was loving (John 13:1); joyful (John 15:11); patient (Matthew 27:14); kind (Ephesians 4:32); good (Matthew 19:16); faithful (1 Thessalonians 5:24); gentle (Isaiah 40:11); truthful (Matthew 22:16); and disciplined (1 Thessalonians 5: 22). What in this list seems hard for you? That is quite a list to work on, but as they say, these are just drops in a bucket. There was much more to the character of Jesus!
The human side of Jesus was forgiving Ephesians 4:32); humble (Philippians 2:8); fair (Matthew 7:12); honest (Ephesians 4:25); dependable (Colossians 1:10); and always responsible (Romans 14:12). Jesus was the type of person we would love to call “friend.” These characteristics allowed those who followed Jesus to get close and personal with Him. They loved Jesus. That is the highest form of achievement any of us could hope for in our lives. To have people around us who truly love us, people who would die for us!
People found Jesus to be generous (Matthew 10:8); confident (Philippians 4:13); friendly (Proverbs 27:17); encouraging (John 14:1); compassionate (Mark 1:41); enthusiastic (Col. 3:23); attentive (Hebrews 2:1); virtuous (Colossians 3:12–17); and always optimistic (Luke 21:18). Why did Jesus always have a crowd following Him? Just look at these virtues. This is the kind of person that attracts others. No one ever forced Jesus’ followers to follow Him. They did so willingly!2“I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour, millions would die for Him.” ~Napoleon Bonaparte
When we compare Jesus to other people, we find Him pure and holy (1 Peter 2:22); grateful (1 Thessalonians 5:18); content (Romans 9:19–21); focused (Mark 1:17-18); wise (1 Kings 3:9); and thoughtful (Philippians 2:4). Exhausting list, isn’t it? To think that our focus should be on becoming like Jesus. But there is both good news and bad news here. The bad news, this is still just a partial list of Jesus’ attributes. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to help each of us achieve our goal of becoming more Christlike.
Here are just a few more characteristics to drive the point home! Jesus is available, diligent, thoughtful, discrete, obedient, reverent, a servant, successful, a teacher, agreeable, appreciative, a good example, faithful, committed, an excellent communicator, devoted to the precepts of Scripture, cooperative, creative, determined, devoted, decisive, fearless, flexible, hospitable, loyal, persuasive, tolerant, respectful and alive in our world today.
Wouldn’t your life be better if you knew someone like we are describing here? Wouldn’t all our lives be better if we lived in a country where everyone, including our leaders were like Jesus? That was exactly what our founding father Thomas Jefferson thought too. Jefferson had spent decades of his life studying and comparing the moral teachings of dozens of history’s most famous teachers and leaders. These included Ocellus, Timaeus, Pythagoras, Aristides, Cato, Socrates, Plato, Epicurus, Cicero, Xenophon, Seneca, Epictetus, Antoninus and many others. What few know is that Jefferson compared their teachings to Jesus. He then went on in 1804 and again in 1820 to consolidate Jesus’ teachings based on Jesus’ moral character. Jefferson’s conclusions were that none were better than Jesus! Jefferson’s purpose was to translate his writings on Jesus and make them available to the indigenous population in our country. He paid for the printing and distribution himself.
Historians have inappropriately named these writings “The Jefferson Bible.” Yet, Jefferson never claimed it as a Bible. The morality of our nation was always paramount to him. His vision was to see America as a moral country with its citizenry living as Jesus lived. After Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, a handwritten draft entitled “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” was found at his bedside. His nightly habit was to read it. After his death, the notes were published as “The Jefferson Bible3https://uuhouston.org/files/The_Jefferson_Bible.pdf.” In 1902, Representative John Lacy of Iowa was so inspired by Jefferson’s notes that he sponsored a resolution to reprint Jefferson’s Morals of Jesus of Nazareth for use by our nation’s representatives. Nine thousand copies were printed. For the next 50 years, each senator and representative were given a copy at their swearing in. Too bad we stopped!
Can you for a moment reflect on the idea of an America where all its representatives reflected the virtues of Jesus? Can you imagine a nation where its populous exemplified the characteristics of Jesus? We can only dream!
- Can you tell where your own individual characteristics came from?
- Ideas to Explore: Parents, family members, teachers, church, youth groups, education, experiences, Jesus, etc.
- While we are all unique, which characteristics t would you consider to be your best ones responsible for setting your direction in life?
- Ideas to Explore: Learned to work hard; have common sense; care about others; honest; responsible; reliable? You get the idea, there are those things you gained that have advanced your life forward. Where did these come from?
- Which characteristics in life have been inhibitors to you?
- Ideas to Explore: Bad habits are one area. Where did these come from?
- From all of those experiences in life and from all of those people impacting your life, who was the one you would say was number one?
- Ideas to Explore: The people who mentored us in our youth, a loving and functional family, an active church life as a child, are all formative. Was there one person who helped form you?
- Why do you think that the world is so fearful of citizenry and leaders who are Christlike?
- Ideas to Explore: Did Jesus set the bar too high? Is Satan too powerful in our world? Greed and corruption, sin is too much fun?
- How would you change the leaders of our country and the people into leading Christlike lives?
- Ideas to Explore: Bring back God in our country and schools? Hold people accountable to their actions? Change how we teach children the values of life?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations
- 2“I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour, millions would die for Him.” ~Napoleon Bonaparte