Jesus is universally respected. Even the followers of Islam claim him as a prophet. And millions who have no use for the church still like Jesus. But the question remains, “Was Jesus right?” “Did he know what he was talking about?”
It is difficult to reconcile Islam’s claim that Jesus was a prophet with the clear statements that he made regarding himself: “He that has seen me has seen the Father.” “I and the Father are One.” “All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth.” “No one comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus clearly claimed to be more than a mere prophet or a great teacher.
It is also difficult to reconcile the attitude and actions of professing Christians with Jesus’ words and instructions. When I was eighteen, I worked in a warehouse that shipped products to stores where they would be sold. I worked with older workers who, like me, worked for minimum wage. Some of my co-workers, who were professing Christians, heard that I planned to become a “preacher.” They tried to be nice and encouraging. They told me it was a good thing for me to become a preacher, but reminded me that those things “don’t work here.”
I interpreted their comments to mean that they believed in Jesus but the teachings of Jesus were out of touch with the real world. They were like many Christians I have encountered over the years. Dallas Willard called them “vampire Christians.” They want a little of Jesus’ blood, just enough to forgive their sins and assure they are going to heaven, but they don’t think Jesus knew what he was talking about when it comes to everyday life.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Clearly, he thought he knew what he was talking about, and he expected that anyone who placed their faith in him would do everything they could to obey him. It was apparently inconceivable to Jesus that someone could think they loved him, and, at the same time, ignore or disobey his instructions.
Either Jesus was the smartest person who ever lived and knew better than anyone else how life should be lived on this earth, or he was a delusional pretender who has misguided millions for more than two thousand years. If Jesus’ instructions for living will not work in the courtroom, the schools, the factory and the family, neither will they work to get us to heaven.
Our personal conclusion about whether we believe Jesus was right will not be reflected in what we profess about who he is, but in what we do when we are going about our day to day activities at work, at school and at home. Are we bringing our lives into alignment with his life and teaching? Do we act like Jesus acted? Do we forgive like Jesus forgave? Are we truthful and faithful like Jesus was truthful and faithful? Do we love like Jesus loved?
Following Jesus’ instructions has nothing to do with earning our way to heaven. It has every thing to do with loving Jesus and living a meaningful life. If you want to know what Jesus expects, you can find his instructions in Matthew chapters 5-7.