In 3rd John 3 the apostle writes to one particular church leader, someone called Gaius that he is delighted to know that the church is “walking in the truth.” He is pleased they are behaving with that integrity which both reflects and embodies the truth of the gospel itself. We can take it that this involves not just correct doctrine and proper outward behavior, but love for God and for one’s fellow believers. They have, it seems, grasped hold of the truth of the gospel, not as an abstract idea but as what it is, the very life of God himself at work in his people. They are taking Jesus seriously.
If what we want for sure is to be Christian in our hearts and lives the Bible tells how. It is to take Jesus seriously! It is to be loving in the compassionate, costly way in which Jesus was loving. It is to be holy in the involved, faith-filled way in which Jesus was holy. It is to be like Jesus, by liking what Jesus liked. It is to have faith in his faith, in life, in man, in others, and in God.
“But what is special about this point?” you may be asking. “Do not all Christians take Jesus seriously?” And the first part of the answer is “Yes.” In some sense all Christians do take Jesus seriously. But the second part of the answer is “No.” Not all Christians take Jesus so seriously that his mind, his spirit, and his faith become the one and only style of life against which the mind and spirit and the faith of Christians is to be measured. Such a model is a guideline for what is to be included, but it is also a corrective which determines what either should or may be omitted.
Stated positively. Anything which is essential to Christian belief and practice is of the life-style of Jesus. Stated negatively. There is nothing, but nothing, which is to be treated as essential to Christian belief and life-style if it is not harmonious with the recorded faith and discernible life style of Jesus.
And it is at this point that taking Jesus seriously really does become a distinction with a difference. For how many Christians do you know who treat as absolutely essential to Christian faith and practice certain behavioral taboos, certain liturgical forms and certain creedal incrustations, which at no significant point match the model of the mind, the spirit, the faith and the life-style of Jesus of Nazareth. They take with utmost seriousness the types of things which Jesus either deliberately repudiated, treated with indifference or relegated to secondary importance. I am not suggesting that we don’t take Jesus seriously. What I suggesting is that we sometimes lose sight of Jesus by failure to observe his spirit and life-style. For the discipline that gets the job done for those who want to be Christian in their lives is to take as their one and only model Jesus of Nazareth.
So, whatever else being a Christian in our lives means – it is a compulsive imitation in the twentieth-first century of the precise steps of a man who walked in the first century. It is also a spontaneous actualization of our own selves after the creative lead of a Leader. For following his lead means that all of us in our own times and places, with our own talents and temperaments, relate freely and affirmatively to life as we receive it, personally and individually to people as we meet them, and intimately and confidently to God as he finds us and we find him, in designing such a style, none of us is going to be a faultless follower. But in trying such a style, some of us are sufficiently committed to pray – “Lord, I want to be a Christian in my life!”