How Close Can We Cut?
(to the pattern of Jesus)
Is Jesus the pattern for His followers in all things? As a wee boy, I watched my mother sew. After unfolding the pattern, she’d pin the crinkly paper tightly to the flattened cloth. Working her scissors down the lines of the pattern (40 years later, I can still hear the “snip, snip”), she’d cut both the pattern and the cloth.
Can a believer unfold the character of Christ from Scripture, pin the actions and attitudes of Jesus over his or her life, and cut precisely along the lines? As a young believer, I answered that question with a passionate, “Yes!” I’d read In His Steps and its theme modernized in the “What Would Jesus Do?” slogan, both of which seemed to capture the heart of 1 Peter 2:21. Snip, snip.
I’d pondered the words of Jesus, who told me that an apprentice, “when fully taught, is just like his teacher.” Snip, snip.
Even the term “Christian” (christianos), used three times in the New Testament to label followers of Jesus, means “little anointed ones”—“little-Christs”—spitting images of Jesus in word and attitude. Snip, snip.
My conclusion: Jesus is the pattern for His followers in all things, and I must cut along those same lines as His devoted follower.
But every student has report-card time, and as I neared my 30th anniversary following Jesus, it was evident that my little spiritual Home-Ec. project wasn’t turning out so great. I had cut nowhere near the lines of my pattern.
Can we live like Jesus?
Turning back to the Scriptures, I kept tripping over passages suggesting that Jesus was a pattern I could not duplicate at a number of critical points:
- Jesus had neither a sin nature nor sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 1:19).
- Except for one agonizing moment at the cross when the sin of the world was laid on Him, Jesus had intimate, unbroken fellowship with Abba.
- Jesus was continually being filled with the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by the lavish and permeating fruit of the Spirit in His life.
- Jesus evidenced all the spiritual gifts and possessed them inherently as God’s Son and the perfect man.
Perhaps the most profound difference for me was that Jesus had a crystal-clear mission for His life (Mark 10:45). Honestly, navigating my calling resembles trying to find and follow the white line while driving at night through a thick fog.
Though highly committed, I knew I couldn’t cut along those lines. Forget it. But then, neither could I turn in my spiritual scissors and walk away from the table just because of consistently lousy outcomes. With nearly each turn of the page, Scripture makes it clear that though I will never cut along the lines of the pattern of Jesus perfectly, I can learn, and I am expected to learn to cut along those same holy lines with ever-increasing precision.
Scripture reverberates with clarion teaching that as a follower of Jesus, I have a new nature and can walk in it. It tells me I can have restored “Abba! Father!” fellowship with God (Romans 8:15). It tells me that while I don’t have all the spiritual gifts, God has placed me into a local body of believers who do have all the gifts, and together as a functioning community, we can become “the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 4:13-16). And it tells me I can have a fullness of the Spirit by being continually filled with the Spirit of God, as I yield my heart moment-by-moment to His gracious control (Ephesians 5:18).
“I must . . . but I can’t . . . but I can. . . .” Is it any wonder that sincere followers of Jesus are ripe for neurosis? So what are believers to do?
Less. A lot less. In fact, only the things Jesus assigns to us. In these things, by His guidance and power, we can cut along those lines with divine results.