Does our world seem upside down lately?
Are you like me? Do you wake up each morning wondering what new problem is going to rear its ugly head, what new catastrophe will arise, what new issue will claw its way into our collective conscience?
These last few months have taken a toll.
They have taken a toll on marriages, homes, churches, communities, and our whole world. As families, we’ve had an unprecedented amount of enforced and more-than-unexpected quality time. The doors of our churches have been closed, and we’ve missed the strength that comes from Christian fellowship. We’ve seen school doors locked, graduations canceled, jobs lost, and loved ones who are languishing alone in hospitals and nursing homes.
We’ve seen the beauty of sacrifice and service, but at the same time, we’ve seen the ugliness of human nature.
Amidst the spaghetti-against-the-wall scientific solutions, political pontificating, stimulus checks, unemployment, petitions, marches, Instagram opinions, and Twitter tirades, I’m more convinced than ever that Jesus truly is the answer to all that ills us!
I know that’s true. I believe it with all of my heart. But there’s so much more to the Gospel than merely knowing and believing. There’s doing. And boy-oh-boy have we got some doing to do!
In a strange, backward way, if I want to be the best wife, mom, friend, neighbor, and citizen that I can be in such a time as this, I’ve discovered that my most effective doing may just possibly be carried out by what I don’t do.
Let me explain …
For years, I’ve tried to live out the question, “What would Jesus do?” I’ve carefully searched the Scriptures and tried to faithfully carry out the actions that would bring glory to God and help my fellow man. Although my attempts have frequently been faulty, I’ve wanted to love my neighbor as myself.
As I’m looking at this crazy, mixed-up, and upside-down world we’re living in right now, the question “What would Jesus do?’ just doesn’t seem to fit. I find myself asking a new question, and this new question is, for me, changing what DOING looks like in my daily life and actions.
This new question: “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?”
As I’ve been digging into the Scriptures and praying about how God would have me live and serve in these tumultuous days, I’ve been struck by the things that Jesus didn’t do in His daily interactions with people. I’ve had to slow down and chew on the Scriptures. I’ve had to confess that too often in my zeal to rush in and DO; I may somehow have missed the mark of ministry.
So, what wouldn’t Jesus have done?
The first thing I notice in the Scripture is just how often Jesus didn’t begin by talking. Instead, He listened. He didn’t rush into situations with a ready-made answer, and He certainly didn’t insert His personal experience into someone else’s pain.
In John 11:1–40, the Bible recounts the events of the death of Lazarus and Jesus’ interactions with Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus walked into a situation that was shadowed in grief and into relationships overcome with sorrow.
If there was anyone who understood grief and sorrows, it was Jesus. He could have shared with Mary and Martha the pain He experienced while being separated from the Father. He could have told them of the times that He sorrowed in his heart over the lack of understanding on the part of the disciples. He could have revealed His hurt when those who first followed after Him turned aside to their pleasures and pursuits.
He could have, but He didn’t.
Instead, He quietly joined them in their grief. He stood alongside them and wept with sorrow. He gently reminded them of His promise of resurrection and life, and without condemning, their anguish communicated hope and help.
When I can come alongside my hurting family and friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ, and community and world without bringing my own experience into their sorrow, I can be like Jesus. When I am like Jesus, the Gospel can minister hope and help.
The second truth I found in my study is that Jesus didn’t just open the doors and tell people to come to find Him. Instead, He found people and went to join them where they were.
Zaccheus, the tax collector, is introduced in Luke 19:1–6. Zaccheus was not a popular man! He was the chief tax collector in Jericho and probably a bit of a thug. The Scripture records that he was a wealthy man and no doubt that wealth came from extorting the Jewish people. Nevertheless, Jesus stopped His journey to engage Zaccheus in conversation. He took time out of His busyness to reach out to one of the unlovely ones of the day.
Here’s what Jesus didn’t do. He didn’t say, “Hey, Zaccheus! If you come where I’m staying, I’d love to share some truth with you.” He didn’t present His resume. “Zaccheus, you can trust me. I have years of experience working with short, despised Jewish guys.” He could have said, “Walk with my squad, and you’ll see how good life can be!” He definitely didn’t add, “We’ve got a ton of guys just like you!”
He could have, but He didn’t.
Instead, Jesus asked Zaccheus to come down from the tree, and the Lord went to Zaccheus’ house. He went to Zaccheus’ turf if you will, and that choice opened the door to Zaccheus’ heart. That choice opened the door for Gospel ministry.
When I go to where people are instead of waiting for them to seek me out, I will find open-door opportunities. When they know that I’m willing to sacrifice what’s comfortable for me (my turf, my time, my usual way of doing things), they will be more apt to trust my heart and words. When I demonstrate that the Gospel and Jesus are found anywhere, I will transparently portray my Savior.
When I GO, instead of always saying COME, I can be like Jesus.
This final truth that I discovered is perhaps the most important of them all. When Jesus listened to others and went where they lived, He didn’t just offer them a safe place to vent. He wasn’t just a receptacle for their grievances and hardships. Jesus listened carefully, but when our Lord chose to speak, He spoke words of truth. And the truth He spoke was always a mirror that reflected the heart of the listener.
In John 4:4–26, Jesus had one of those see-yourself-in-the-mirror conversations with the woman at the well. Although she came to the draw water from the well, after her conversation with Jesus, she came away with so much more than a bucket of water. She left her time with Jesus understanding the exact condition of her heart and life.
Here’s what Jesus didn’t do. He didn’t waste any of His communication by trying to build collective experience with the woman. He didn’t say, “I understand how hard adultery is for you.” He didn’t try to align himself as a fellow struggler. He didn’t release her from the responsibility for her choices, by giving her the excuses of upbringing, or environment, or peer pressure. He didn’t respond to her with harshness or condemnation.
He could have, but He didn’t.
Instead, He led her gently through their conversation to make discoveries on her own. He led her to recognize first her lostness, and then her need. He didn’t tell her what He was about or what other people said about Him, but rather WHO He was, and to Whom He belonged.
When the woman walked away from Jesus, she didn’t return to her town, saying, “Come see the man who told me all about himself.” No, she said, “Come and see the man who told me all about me.”
When my communication and care compels others to see themselves for who they truly are, I will be a conduit of truth. They will walk away from our time with a clear understanding of their need, not an earful about me. The Gospel will be sufficient.
When I focus on them, instead of talking about me, Jesus has the chance to show Himself clearly through my life.
Change is challenging, but if I want to minister help and hope in a tumultuous world, I’m going to have to change my question. How about you? Will you join me and ask yourself the question:
What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?