Hold to the Pattern Jesus Set
“I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also.”—JOHN 13:15.
1. Why is Jesus a model for Christians to imitate?
IN ALL the history of mankind, only one person has lived his whole life without sinning. That is Jesus. Apart from Jesus, “there is no man that does not sin.” (1 Kings 8:46; Romans 3:23) For that reason, genuine Christians view Jesus as a perfect model to be imitated. Indeed, on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., shortly before his death, Jesus himself told his followers to imitate him. He said: “I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also.” (John 13:15) During that last night, Jesus mentioned a number of ways in which Christians should strive to be like him. In this article, we will consider some of them.
The Need for Humility
2, 3. In what ways was Jesus a perfect pattern of humility?
2 When Jesus urged his disciples to follow the pattern he set, he was specifically speaking of humility. On more than one occasion, he had counseled his followers to be humble, and on the night of Nisan 14, he demonstrated his own humility by washing the feet of his apostles. Then Jesus said: “If I, although Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another.” (John 13:14) Thereafter, he told his apostles to follow the pattern he set. And what a fine pattern of humility that was!
3 The apostle Paul tells us that before coming to earth, Jesus was “existing in God’s form.” Nevertheless, he emptied himself and became a lowly human. More than that, “he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” (Philippians 2:6-8) Think of it. Jesus, the second-highest person in the universe, consented to become lower than the angels, to be born a helpless baby, to grow up subject to imperfect parents, and finally to die like a despised criminal. (Colossians 1:15, 16; Hebrews 2:6, 7) What humility! Is it possible to imitate that “mental attitude” and cultivate such “lowliness of mind”? (Philippians 2:3-5) Yes, but it is not easy.
4. What things make humans proud, but why is pride dangerous?
4 The opposite of humility is pride. (Proverbs 6:16-19) Pride led to Satan’s downfall. (1 Timothy 3:6) It easily takes root in human hearts, and once there, it is hard to remove. People are prideful because of their country, their race, their possessions, their education, their secular achievements, their social standing, their looks, their sporting abilities, and many other things. Yet, none of those things are important to Jehovah. (1 Corinthians 4:7) And if they cause us to be proud, they damage our relationship with him. “Jehovah is high, and yet the humble one he sees; but the lofty one he knows only from a distance.”—Psalm 138:6; Proverbs 8:13.
Humble Among Our Brothers
5. Why is it vital that elders be humble?
5 Even our contributions to and achievements in Jehovah’s service should not make us proud; neither should responsibilities in the congregation. (1 Chronicles 29:14; 1 Timothy 6:17, 18) In fact, the weightier our responsibilities, the more humble we need to be. The apostle Peter urged elders not to be “lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but [to become] examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:3) Elders are appointed to be servants and examples, not lords and masters.—Luke 22:24-26; 2 Corinthians 1:24.
6. In what areas of Christian living do we need humility?
6 Elders are not alone in needing humility. To younger men, who may be proud of their quicker minds and stronger bodies compared with those of older ones, Peter wrote: “Gird yourselves with lowliness of mind toward one another, because God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (1 Peter 5:5) Yes, Christlike humility is vital for all. It takes humility to preach the good news, especially in the face of indifference or hostility. It takes humility to accept counsel or to simplify our life in order to enlarge our share in the ministry. In addition, we need humility as well as courageous faith when enduring bad publicity, legal attacks, or violent persecution.—1 Peter 5:6.
7, 8. What are some ways in which we can cultivate humility?
7 How can a person overcome pride and conduct himself “with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior” to him? (Philippians 2:3) He needs to view himself as Jehovah does. Jesus explained the right attitude when he said: “You, also, when you have done all the things assigned to you, say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.’” (Luke 17:10) Remember, nothing we can do compares with what Jesus did. Yet, Jesus was humble.
8 Further, we can ask for Jehovah’s help to cultivate the proper view of ourselves. Like the psalmist, we can pray: “Teach me goodness, sensibleness and knowledge themselves, for in your commandments I have exercised faith.” (Psalm 119:66) Jehovah will help us to develop a sensible, balanced view of ourselves, and he will bless us for our humble attitude. (Proverbs 18:12) Jesus said: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”—Matthew 23:12.
A Proper View of Right and Wrong
9. How did Jesus view right and wrong?
9 Despite living for 33 years among imperfect people, Jesus remained “without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) In fact, when prophesying about the Messiah, the psalmist said: “You have loved righteousness and you hate wickedness.” (Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9) In this too Christians strive to imitate Jesus. Not only do they know right from wrong; they hate what is wrong and love what is right. (Amos 5:15) This helps them to battle against their inborn sinful inclinations.—Genesis 8:21; Romans 7:21-25.
10. If we unrepentantly practice “vile things,” what attitude are we betraying?
10 Jesus said to the Pharisee Nicodemus: “He that practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, in order that his works may not be reproved. But he that does what is true comes to the light, in order that his works may be made manifest as having been worked in harmony with God.” (John 3:20, 21) Consider: John identified Jesus as “the true light that gives light to every sort of man.” (John 1:9, 10) Yet, Jesus said that if we practice “vile things”—things that are wrong, unacceptable to God—we hate the light. Can you imagine hating Jesus and what he stands for? Yet, that is the position of those who unrepentantly practice sin. Perhaps they do not view things that way, but clearly, Jesus does.
How to Cultivate Jesus’ View of Right and Wrong
11. What is vital if we are to cultivate Jesus’ view of right and wrong?
11 We need a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong from Jehovah’s viewpoint. We gain that understanding only from a study of God’s Word, the Bible. As we pursue such a study, we need to pray as the psalmist prayed: “Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah; teach me your own paths.” (Psalm 25:4) Remember, however, that Satan is deceptive. (2 Corinthians 11:14) He can disguise wrong and make it appear acceptable to an unwary Christian. Hence, we need to meditate deeply on what we learn and closely heed the counsel of “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Study, prayer, and meditation on what we learn will help us to grow to maturity and be among those who “through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) Then we will be disposed to hate the wrong and love the right.
12. What Bible counsel helps us not to practice lawlessness?
12 If we hate what is wrong, we will not allow a desire for wrong things to grow in our hearts. Many years after Jesus’ death, the apostle John wrote: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.”—1 John 2:15, 16.
13, 14. (a) Why is a love of the things of the world dangerous for Christians? (b) How can we avoid cultivating a love of things in the world?
13 Some might reason that not everything in the world is wrong. Even so, the world and its attractions can easily distract us from serving Jehovah. And nothing the world provides is designed to draw us closer to God. Hence, if we grow to love the things in the world, even things that may not in themselves be wrong, we are on a dangerous course. (1 Timothy 6:9, 10) Besides, much in the world truly is bad and can corrupt us. If we watch movies or television programs that highlight violence, materialism, or sexual immorality, those things can become acceptable—and then tempting. If we mix with people whose main interest is in improving their life-style or cultivating business opportunities, those things can become of chief importance to us too.—Matthew 6:24; 1 Corinthians 15:33.
14 On the other hand, if we find delight in Jehovah’s Word, “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life” will lose much of their allure. Further, if we associate with those who put the interests of God’s Kingdom first, we will become like them, loving what they love and avoiding what they avoid.—Psalm 15:4; Proverbs 13:20.
15. As was the case with Jesus, how will loving righteousness and hating lawlessness strengthen us?
15 Hating lawlessness and loving righteousness helped Jesus to keep his eyes on “the joy that was set before him.” (Hebrews 12:2) The same can be true of us. We know that “the world is passing away and so is its desire.” Any gratification that this world affords is only temporary. However, “he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Because Jesus did God’s will, he opened the way for humans to gain everlasting life. (1 John 5:13) May we all imitate him and benefit from his integrity.
16. Why did Jesus urge his followers to love one another?
16 Jesus indicated another way that his disciples would imitate him, saying: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12, 13, 17) There are many reasons why Christians love their brothers. On this occasion, Jesus above all had in mind the hatred they would face from the world. He said: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. . . . A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18, 20) Yes, even in being persecuted, Christians are like Jesus. They need to develop a strong, loving bond to help them withstand that hatred.
17. Why does the world hate true Christians?
17 Why would the world hate Christians? Because, like Jesus, they are “no part of the world.” (John 17:14, 16) They are neutral in military and political matters, and they observe Bible principles, respecting the sanctity of life and keeping to a high moral code. (Acts 15:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Their primary goals are spiritual, not material. They live in the world, but as Paul wrote, they do not ‘use it to the full.’ (1 Corinthians 7:31) True, some have expressed admiration for the high standards of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But Jehovah’s Witnesses do not make compromises to seek admiration or acceptance. As a result, most in the world do not understand them, and many hate them.
18, 19. Following the pattern of Jesus, how do Christians handle opposition and persecution?
18 Jesus’ apostles saw the world’s intense hatred when Jesus was arrested and executed, and they saw how Jesus handled that hatred. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ religious opponents came to arrest him. Peter tried to protect him with a sword, but Jesus said to Peter: “Return your sword to its place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52; Luke 22:50, 51) In earlier times, Israelites fought with the sword against their enemies. Now, though, things were different. God’s Kingdom was “no part of this world” and had no national boundaries to protect. (John 18:36) Soon Peter would be part of a spiritual nation, whose members would have their citizenship in heaven. (Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:20, 21) Henceforth, then, Jesus’ followers would handle hatred and persecution the way Jesus did—fearlessly but peaceably. They would confidently leave the outcome of matters in Jehovah’s hands and rely on him for the strength to endure.—Luke 22:42.
19 Years later, Peter wrote: “Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. . . . When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:21-23) Just as Jesus warned, Christians have experienced harsh persecution over the years. Both in the first century and in our own time, they have followed Jesus’ example and built up a wonderful record of faithful endurance, demonstrating that they are peaceful integrity keepers. (Revelation 2:9, 10) May we all individually do likewise when circumstances demand it.—2 Timothy 3:12.
“Put On the Lord Jesus Christ”
20-22. In what way do Christians “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”?
20 Paul wrote to the congregation in Rome: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not be planning ahead for the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:14) Christians wear Jesus, as it were, like a garment. They strive to imitate his qualities and actions to such an extent that they become a reflection—even if imperfect—of their Master.—1 Thessalonians 1:6.
21 We can successfully “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” if we become familiar with the Master’s life and strive to live as he lived. We imitate his humility, his love of righteousness, his hatred of lawlessness, his love for his brothers, his being no part of the world, and his patient endurance of suffering. We do not ‘plan ahead for the desires of the flesh’—that is, we do not make our chief purpose in life the reaching of secular goals or the satisfying of fleshly desires. Rather, when making a decision or handling a problem, we ask: ‘What would Jesus do in this situation? What would he want me to do?’
22 Finally, we imitate Jesus in keeping busy “preaching the good news.” (Matthew 4:23; 1 Corinthians 15:58) In that way too, Christians follow the pattern that Jesus set, and the following article will discuss how.
Can You Explain?
• Why is it vital that a Christian be humble?
• How can we cultivate a proper view of right and wrong?
• In what way do Christians imitate Jesus in handling opposition and persecution?
• How is it possible to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”?
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Jesus set the perfect pattern of humility
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Every aspect of a Christian’s life, including preaching, calls for humility
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Satan can make improper entertainment seem acceptable to a Christian
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The love of our brothers will fortify us against opposition