Imitating Christ is one of the great aims of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 11:1). To imitate him should be our constant goal and aspiration.
What does it mean to imitate Christ?
It means to live like he lived.
To prioritize what he prioritized.
To speak like he spoke.
Today I’d like us to focus on that last point: how can we speak more like Jesus?
Of course we’re all familiar with famous and profound things Jesus said:
If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. | Matthew 5:39
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. | Matthew 5:44-45
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. | Matthew 22:37-40
As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. | Luke 6:31
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. | Luke 20:25
But let’s dive deeper: when Jesus spoke, how did he speak? What was his manner of speech? What can we learn about the way he communicated?
We can make several practical observations here. For one, Jesus seemed to avoid small talk, or at least that’s how he is portrayed. He also saw teaching opportunities in everyday situations, and he often relied on stories, parables, and illustrations to drive home his points.
But one of the specific things I admire about Jesus is how he was normally so direct with his words.
If something needed to be said, he said it.
You see this most vividly in his discussions with the Jewish religious rulers. Notice the direct and forceful way Jesus spoke in these verses:
Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” | Matthew 22:29
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” | Matthew 23:27-28
Later, in Luke:
Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. … And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things. | Luke 14:3-6
Clearly, Jesus did not mince his words!
Direct, honest conversations are something I struggle with. If something is obviously true and obviously needs to be said, I still hesitate to say it if I think it might hurt someone’s feelings.
Maybe you can relate.
I think this is a common problem in polite, conservative churches. We tiptoe around difficult subjects and chit-chat about things we know are safe. When we do muster up the courage to say something consequential, we often cushion our words with so many caveats and disclaimers that our main points get lost in the process.
O Christian, be truthful and direct with your words!
If something needs to be said, then say it. Have those difficult but necessary conversations. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re constantly thinking remorsefully about things you should have said but chose not to.
So here is my simple challenge for both you and me today: