Many times at my secular workplace and even at my Christian college, I’ve found that I’m prone to conform. It can be easy to pick up negative attitudes from other people, or to talk about someone a certain way because everyone else is doing it. As Christians, we can find it so easy to get stuck in our comfort zones and to think and act just like the world and the culture at large. But Jesus calls His followers to something more than that—He wants us to stand out for Him and to be set apart!
One of the greatest ways to stand out for Christ is to imitate Christ Himself. Jesus was radical in how He lived his life: commands like “Love your enemies” and “Take up your cross and follow Me” were practically unheard of in Jesus’s time. Such commands would also sound ridiculous today in our individualistic, comfort-oriented, success-driven culture. But Jesus transcended this culture, and He calls His followers to do the same.
In this article, we’ll look at four ways Jesus lived radically and how He calls His followers to imitate Him.
Jesus’s life and ministry were marked by His love and compassion for the weak. He healed, taught, and lived among the people, meeting their physical and spiritual needs. Several times throughout the gospels, as Jesus looked at the crowds that followed Him, the gospel writers tell us how He responded to them:
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36 (ESV)
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with the desire to alleviate it.” This word doesn’t just express a feeling; it is a call to action! Jesus’s compassion led Him to take action and serve those around Him, whether that meant ministering to their physical needs or leading them to the love of God.
On another occasion, Jesus had withdrawn from the crowds and gone to a desolate place to be alone (Matthew 14:13). Perhaps He was exhausted from ministering, or perhaps He wanted space to process the beheading of His cousin John the Baptist, which Matthew’s gospel had just recounted (Matthew 14:1–12). Yet He saw a need and met it:
“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Matthew 14:14 (ESV)
Jesus reached out and ministered to all those whom the society of His day despised. He spent time with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10–13). He ministered to women, children, Samaritans, and even Gentiles—all of whom were often looked down upon by the Jews (Luke 8:1–3; Matthew 19:14; John 4; Matthew 15:22–28).
We, too, are called to live with radical compassion. Jesus told His disciples, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).
Jesus’s compassion wasn’t just any compassion. He didn’t care what others thought of Him or what He was giving up in order to bless others. He just reached out. We ought to do the same. Maybe it’s something as simple as reaching out to someone who feels left out or doing a kind deed for someone in need, even though you could be spending the time elsewhere.
Roses, can the world around you see whose you are by how you care for others? How can you show radical compassion to someone today?
Jesus lived a life of holiness. Scripture clearly tells us that Christ was tempted, yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). When the devil came to tempt Him, He resisted temptation with Scripture, as an example to us of how to respond when we are tempted (Matthew 4).
Not only that, but Jesus wanted His followers to live similar lives. “Sanctify them in the truth,” He prayed for them in John 17:17 (ESV). “Your word is truth.”
But wait. Does that mean we are supposed to be perfect? What about “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23 ESV)? We humans are not sinless, but we can be holy. We are able to live holy lives through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit:
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3–4 (ESV)
When we walk in the Spirit, He helps us live lives of holiness, just as Jesus did. This doesn’t mean that we will be immediately perfect. Sanctification is a process. But it does mean that we no longer have to live dominated by our sin nature.
As Christians, we are called to be holy because this shows we are in Christ. The apostle Peter exhorted the early Christians:
“. . . but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:15–16 (ESV)
Our holy conduct as believers stands as a witness to the God we serve. Later in his letter, Peter told the churches that when they live holy lives, those persecuting them “may see [their] good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12 ESV). We need to stand out from the rest of the world to point them to Christ.
Dear girls, we have been called to holiness, not out of a strict legalism or because God won’t accept us if we aren’t perfect, but instead to show the world that we are Christ’s. As you go through your daily lives, pursue sanctification by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit and following His leading.
Wherever Jesus went, He served. Throughout the Gospels, we see Him reaching out to serve others, even though He was God Himself and thus worthy of being served. A famous Scripture passage describes this servanthood:
“[Jesus], who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6–8 (ESV)
Jesus demonstrated the ultimate servanthood in His humbling Himself to become a man and die a dreadful death for our sakes. He came to this earth for the very purpose of serving and “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 ESV). And He wanted His disciples, too, to serve.
“But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Mark 10:43–44 (ESV)
Jesus emphasized this to His disciples through His actions when He washed their feet during the Last Supper. As their Rabbi, such an action was very strange. But Jesus explained:
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13:14–15 (ESV)
This was a challenging example; to be unwilling to wash one another’s feet, the disciples would, in effect, be making themselves greater than Jesus, because they would not stoop to the task that He gladly undertook. Jesus had challenged their expectations for how a leader should behave because He wanted them to show the same kind of radical servanthood to one another.
As Christians, we are servants of Christ and one another. Paul, James, and Peter all introduced themselves as “servants” of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1). Paul told the Corinthians that in proclaiming the Gospel to them, he and his assistants were their “servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV). The Greek word here literally does mean “servant” or “slave,” and it clearly shows that we are to put others before ourselves.
What would this radical servanthood look like for you? Serving is more than just helping someone; it is doing so with a cheerful heart that wants the best for that person. This is what Paul meant when he exhorted believers to “through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13 ESV). Who can you do that for today?
Ultimately, Jesus’s life exemplifies sacrifice. What He did for us on the cross was the greatest sacrifice in the history of mankind. Jesus Himself said before He went to the cross:
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (ESV)
Because of this great love, and “for the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV), Jesus gave up His own life to reconcile man to God. This is what makes Him stand out from so many other belief systems. What god would sacrifice himself for humankind?
In demonstrating this ultimate sacrifice, Jesus called His disciples to do the same. Throughout His ministry, He made it clear that anyone who would follow Him must be willing to give up everything:
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” Luke 9:23 (ESV)
“Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” Luke 9:61–62 (ESV)
Imitating Christ calls for radical, countercultural sacrifice. In our world today, we are used to comfort and luxury, and we’re very resistant to the idea of anything that might give us discomfort. But Christ’s example gives us a much greater calling:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:16 (ESV)
Dear Roses, let us not succumb to the world’s messaging that tells us to fit in with the culture and seek our own comfort. Let’s instead look to Christ’s example for how we should live, and let us be willing to be radical for Him. When we stand out, the world will look at us and see Christ in us.
Comment below, Roses, and let’s uplift each other!
Article Written By
Angela is a homeschooled teenager from Minnesota who strives to do everything for the glory of her Lord, Savior, and Everything, Jesus Christ. She’s also an avid reader, writer, editor, National Bible Bee participant, and daydreamer. The passion of her heart is to see young people stand up and live for Jesus with their whole hearts.