By Debbie Holloway
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!” - Philippians 2:5
It is nigh impossible to be wholly truthful and also be universally liked. It is very difficult to believe strange things and be popular. It is unlikely that one who lives as a servant will draw fame and admiration from people in high places.
Thankfully, Jesus calls us neither to be universally liked, popular, famous, or admirable in the eyes of wealthy men.
But hold it – we can’t just stop there. Beware, lest we swagger with pride in the knowledge that being disliked, unpopular, and obscure will place us in high standing with our Lord. God has a distinct mission for us: to reach the world with the Gospel (that is, John 3:16). He has also set a distinct example for us to follow as we live and try to proclaim that gospel through our words and actions. All too often, however, we fall short of his example and become entirely unapproachable to the exact people we should be loving and reaching with God’s truth and love.
Was Jesus unapproachable? Did his firm stances on God’s truth leave others afraid to challenge him, ask questions, or be imperfect in his presence? Let’s look to Scripture.
1. People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Luke 18:15).
Not only does this infer that children were at ease in the presence of Christ, but that parents were comfortable handing their infants to this man to hold and bless! If you are a parent, you understand the implications of these verses. If not, then know: it’s a big deal to give someone your kid. Jesus lived in such a way that not only did children trust him, but parents trusted him with their children.
2. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:15).
In this passage Jesus attracts both the wicked and the righteous – neither group seems afraid to approach him. But while the Pharisees consistently attack Jesus with purposes of trapping or confounding him, the sinners and tax collectors love to walk with him, eat with him, drink with him, listen to his words. His sermons don’t scare them away; his words aren’t laced with shame and guilt-trips. Rather, he speaks of how to please God, how to love one another, and he fascinates them by turning old notions of righteousness upside down – all in a way that makes people want to listen to him and follow him. He patiently administers to sinners as a doctor gently aids a sick man.
3. Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth (Matthew 19:21).
It’s true, people did leave Jesus. People rejected him and turned away from what he had to say. But notice in this passage of the rich young ruler, Jesus did not reject him. Jesus did not turn him away – rather the man "sadly" left Jesus because his heart did not truly seek perfection by God’s standards.
Are you regarded with suspicion in the eyes of others? Do sinners keep their distance, knowing you are not a safe place for them to live imperfectly? Do you turn people away because of their reluctance to follow Kingdom standards? If so, you may need to revisit the Jesus of the Gospels.
Intersecting Faith and Life: Think of one area in your life that needs a good dose of humility and servitude, and inject some Jesus into it!