What Would Jesus Do?

I have heard a multitude of times these days the question, “What would Jesus do?” Sometimes the question is asked with earnest interest and desire to follow in His footsteps. Other times it is asked with sarcasm. It is true that in Christianity today there are many people who claim to know what Jesus would do, but don’t themselves do what they claim.

All around the world people are shouting acceptance and tolerance, but I’m not sure we understand what true acceptance and tolerance really are. As sinners, we want to do the things we want to do and not be chastised or condemned for it. We want to be accepted as we are. We want others to tolerate our feelings and behavior. This is not exclusive to those outside of Christianity. Christians are just as guilty. And when you listen to the cries of the world, it is a tragic truth that those who expect tolerance are least willing to be tolerant; and those who expect to be accepted are the least willing to extend acceptance.

Many times, “What would Jesus do?” is used to belittle those who stand true to what the Bible says, making them seem as though they are being intolerant, unloving—not like Jesus. If a person steps up and calls an action or behavior sin, then he or she is often considered a hater, a racist, a phobic. This has been my experience. But it is also true that many Christians misinterpret or really don’t know what Jesus would do, and thus they use it in a harmful and hurtful way to condemn and force people to change.

I would like to be clear. True Christians are like Christ. That’s what the name means. Their lives have been surrendered to the moving of the Holy Spirit, a transformation has occurred, and they are no longer the selfish, sinful humans they used to be. Their characters are now Christlike. It is Jesus and His love they present to the world. But sadly, too many Christians only wear a coat of Christianity, something they can wear or take off at their own leisure. The life has not been surrendered and the Holy Spirit has not been allowed to make the needed change in the heart that transforms a character into Christlikeness.

So, let’s look closer at the answer to this very important question, “What would Jesus do?”

It seems that the answer really would be very simple. If we want to know what Jesus would do today, we just need to look at what He did do while here on earth.

First, I want to suggest some spiritual definitions of acceptance and tolerance.

I believe that true acceptance is loving the sinner, but hating the sin. While there is no text in the Bible that specifically states these words, there are texts that lay out the principle. Jude 1:22, 23 is one such example. “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” We can and should, with prayerful compassion and respect, compelled by the love of Christ Jesus, encourage a brother or sister living in sin to turn away from that sin. Knowing that sin ultimately leads to eternal death, how can we say that we truly love our brother or sister if we let them continue in sin without a word?

I would define spiritual tolerance as grace, mercy.

“Mercy implies the imperfection of the object upon which it is bestowed. Because of man’s imperfection, mercy was brought into active existence. Sin is not the object of God’s love, but of His hatred. Yet He pities the sinner, because the guilty one bears the Creator’s image and has received from Him the capabilities that make it possible for him to become a son of God, not through his own merits, but through the imputed merits of Jesus Christ, through the great sacrifice the Saviour has made in his behalf. …

“… We are all dependent on one another. … Every human being on earth is subject to temptation. And all are in need of human influence and sympathy. …

“God’s love and mercy are ever extended toward sinners. Shall men who themselves have sinned against God, refuse to forgive and accept a repentant sinner? … God loved us while we were yet sinners. … ‘As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise’ (Luke 6:31). … Only those who walk with Christ can be truly merciful.” That I May Know Him, 46

Sadly, most people in the world want all the benefits of a Saviour without having to give up their own will. Everyone wants acceptance without the expectation of change. They expect others to tolerate them as they remain convinced that how they choose to live is not sin. There is a plethora of excuses, justifications and just plain “I can’t help being the way I am” being flung around today. But is any of that true? Because the Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. That includes the choices we make and the sins we must overcome.

When we study the life of Christ, we see an example completely lacking in excuses or justification. Jesus simply said, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” John 5:30. And again in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

Jesus offered acceptance to all who came to Him for help. How does He expect us to accept our fellow man? He said to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34, 35. Jesus is very clear that we are to love others more than ourselves, and if every person, Christian or not, followed this guidance, acceptance and tolerance would not be an issue.

Inspiration tells us that we are under the “most solemn obligation to present the word of God, without fear or favor. He [We] must call sin by its right name.” In fact, Inspiration continues much more compellingly and says, “The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” Sons and Daughters of God, 214

We must have the same love for our fellow man as Jesus has for them. Our characters must be like Christ’s, else we will not have the humility and love needed to accept others as those for whom Jesus died, nor can we help sinners recognize their sinfulness and desperate need of a Saviour. We must first recognize our own sins and need of a Saviour or else it will be impossible for us to show the true acceptance and tolerance that is generated by the love of God.

People with a worldly heart, including those who claim to be Christian, too often use the Scriptures like a baseball bat, beating others over the head regarding the actions that are called sin. The Bible says that sin is transgression of the law. The law says that idolatry, the unsanctified use of God’s name, not keeping the Sabbath holy, disrespecting parents, murder, adultery, lying, stealing, and coveting are sins. The Bible is also specific in many places, listing other actions not listed by name in the law.

“Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals [effeminate KJV], nor sodomites [abusers of themselves KJV], nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners [blackmailers] will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9, last part, 10. Other texts condemn foolish talk and course jesting (Ephesians 5:4).

Do I ever find myself condemning others for the sins they willfully and openly commit, while glossing over or excusing my own? Do I claim to be a Christian yet shout at the top of my lungs that the Bible says, “Thou shalt not,” all the while I am?

The world has two definitions of acceptance.

One is represented this way: “I’m going to tell you what your sins are and you have to change.”

The other changes direction: “This is the way I am and you just need to accept me. Who are you to tell me how to live my life? Besides, for all your talk about changing and being like Jesus, I don’t see you giving up your sin.”

When we have handled the business of surrendering our lives to the Holy Spirit and have repented from our sins, then our lives are changed to be like Jesus, and we will be able to offer the kind of acceptance that allows people to see Jesus instead of us. We must remember that our work is to share the gospel with the world. It is the Holy Spirit’s work to change lives.

Christ offered acceptance and tolerance to all with whom He came in contact while He lived here on earth as a man. Let’s look at a few examples.

Judas was not a “called” disciple, although he was not a rejected one. He came and insinuated himself into the disciples, but Jesus did not turn him away (Manuscript Releases, Vol. 20, 105). Judas was selfish, prideful, covetous, greedy, and dishonest. He was a thief and a betrayer. His whole purpose in joining the disciples was to work his way into a high and powerful position in the new kingdom that he assumed Jesus would establish when He overthrew the Romans and freed Israel from their control, restoring them to their rightful place as His chosen nation.

But the person Jesus saw and loved was a sinner who needed a Saviour, and He would be that Saviour, if Judas would accept His offer. Jesus extended grace and mercy to Judas for as long as it took him to make his final choice.

“Jesus knew that Judas was defective in character, but notwithstanding this, He accepted him as one of the disciples, and gave him the same opportunities and privileges that He gave to the others whom He had chosen. Judas was left without excuse in the evil course he afterward pursued. Judas might have become a doer of the word, as were eventually Peter and James and John and the other disciples. Jesus gave precious lessons of instruction, so that those who were associated with Him might have been converted, and have no need of clinging to the defects that marred their characters.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 46, 47

At the last supper, Jesus openly exposed to Judas his character. With love and sorrow, Jesus pled with the heart of Judas to repent. Sadly, we know that he did not.

In 1 Samuel 13, the Bible tells us that God had turned His back on Saul as king of Israel and sought another man, one who was “after His own heart.” That man was David. How was David a man after God’s heart? He trusted in God and obeyed Him. David had an amazing life, one that began as a young shepherd; then he became a mighty warrior—the slayer of a lion and a bear, and a giant—until ultimately, he became the king of Israel. But David failed God. He followed his own desires and stole another man’s wife and then murdered him to keep his affair a secret. But it became very public, and the consequences of his actions brought a heavy toll. He lost four of his own sons and the evil influence of his sins provided a justification among the children of Israel for their sins—a justification that we find is still used today.

But God loved David. He extended to him grace. In His mercy, God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke David (2 Samuel 12) and when he recognized how terrible were his sins and, perhaps more so, the consequences of them, David repented and again became a man after God’s own heart (Conflict and Courage, 180). He pleaded, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” Psalm 51:10–12

Jesus accepted Mary with love and sympathy for the sinner she was, but granted to her grace and mercy until, after seven times casting out her demons, she repented of her sins. Her life was changed and she was able to obey His injunction to “Go, and sin no more.” He saw Mary for what she was, but He also saw what she could become if she were to accept His love and the offer of grace and salvation He extended to her.

“When to human eyes her case appeared hopeless, Christ saw in Mary capabilities for good. He saw the better traits of her character. The plan of redemption has invested humanity with great possibilities, and in Mary these possibilities were to be realized. Through His grace she became a partaker of the divine nature. The one who had fallen and whose mind had been a habitation of demons, was brought very near to the Saviour in fellowship and ministry.

“It was Mary who sat at His feet and learned of Him. It was Mary who poured upon His head the precious anointing oil, and bathed His feet with her tears. Mary stood beside the cross, and followed Him to the sepulcher. Mary was first at the tomb after His resurrection. It was Mary who first proclaimed a risen Saviour.” Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 254

Peter was strong-willed, confident, and arrogant. He knew that he was a sinner, but he trusted in himself and was confident that he could overcome anything. He was determined that he could follow Jesus. Jesus loved Peter and He said to him, “ ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’ ” Luke 22:31, 32

“It is not wise to boast. Peter fell because he did not know his own frailty. …” This Day With God, 260. Peter was confident that he would be willing to go with Christ, no matter where He had to go, even if it meant death. He said, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Luke 22:33

But that isn’t what happened, is it? When put to the test, Peter repeatedly denied his Lord. And looking upon His face, filled with loving pity and mercy, Peter at last saw himself for what he was: a sinner who needed grace.

“Peter followed his Lord after his betrayal. He was anxious to see what would be done with Jesus. And when he was accused of being one of his disciples, he denied it. He was afraid for his life, and when charged with being one of them, he declared that he knew not the man. The disciples were noted for the purity of their words, and Peter, to deceive, and convince them that he was not one of Christ’s disciples, denied it the third time with cursing and swearing. Jesus, who was some distance from Peter, turned a sorrowful, reproving gaze upon him. Then he remembered the words which Jesus had spoken to him in the upper chamber, and also his zealous assertion, Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended. He denied his Lord, even with cursing and swearing; but that look of Jesus melted Peter at once, and saved him. He bitterly wept and repented of his great sin, and was converted, and then was prepared to strengthen his brethren.” Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 1, 49, 50

Friends, acceptance is loving someone because God loves them, full stop. And tolerance is loving while you wait for them to see just who they are and extending a helping heart and hand. It is being so filled with Jesus that when people look at you and interact with you, all they will see and hear is Him.

What did Jesus do? He didn’t hate me because I am a sinner and struggling to come to Him to receive His mercy and grace so that I can obey Him. Jesus loved me before I was ever born. He has loved me every minute of my life and nothing I can do will make Him stop loving me. He says so through Paul in Romans 8:31–39. He lived a life on this earth so that I would know how to live and then could one day be with Him forever. He died on the cross to pay the debt I couldn’t pay. He rose from the grave so that He could return to heaven and intercede with the Father on my behalf even when I am determined to live my own way, following my own desires. And He speaks to my heart, offering me acceptance and tolerance—grace and mercy—so that I can clearly see just how much I need Him.

Jesus accepts me where I am, but the beautiful thing is that He doesn’t leave me there. “The Bible does not teach that man must repent before he comes to Christ.” The Signs of the Times, March 18, 1903. But if I seek forgiveness and surrender my will to His, He will transform me to be like Him. What did Jesus do? He loved me when I didn’t love Him. He waited for me when I was far away from Him.

“[B]eing confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

“Christ does not leave us in our weakness and inefficiency, but, gathering us in the arms of His mercy, binds us to His great heart of infinite love.” The Watchman, October 16, 1906

What will Jesus do? He will make me just like Him so He can use me to tell others how He saved me from my sins and is waiting to save them from theirs.

“Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul. You may say, I am sinful, very sinful. You may be, but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite one away. He does not tell to any all that He might reveal, but He bids every trembling soul take courage. Freely will He pardon all who come to Him for forgiveness and restoration.” Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 254, 255

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. The Lord lifts up the humble … . The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” Psalm 147:3–6, first part, 11

The Bible is not a bat, it is the revelation of God’s love and mercy for mankind. Scripture tells us that a life of sin is a life lost. But God accepts the sinner, and through His grace and mercy, transforms the life lost into a life saved, if we will surrender to Him. Filled with His love and compassion, this is the message we are meant to take to the world.

[Emphasis supplied.]

Judy Rebarchek is a member of the LandMarks team. She may be contacted by email at: judyrebarchek@stepstolife.org