Christ expects a great deal from His followers. He is not satisfied to have them just as good as other people; He wants them to be better. He expects them to conform to a higher standard. “What do you do more than others?” That is the question with which He tests them.
There are many reasons why Christians should surpass others in their life, their character, and their service. One is because they have Jesus Christ as their Leader. Leadership is important in all work. Poor leadership is responsible for many failures. This is the case in business, in civic affairs, in war, and in church life. We have One going before us Who is wise, safe, strong, courageous, and unconquerable. With such a Leader, Christians should surpass all other people in their own personal lives, in their attainments and achievements, in their spiritual growth, in their splendid service, in their heroic struggles, and in their victories!
Moreover, Christians should be better and do more than others because Christ gives them ability and strength as well as leadership. His message is not merely, “Follow me.” It is also, “Because I live, you shall live also!” He puts His own Divine life into those who follow Him. In themselves, they have no more strength, wisdom, or ability than other people. But with the grace of Christ in them, they can accomplish things that would be impossible without their Savior’s help. “I can do all things in him who strengthens me,” said Paul. With Divine life in them, Christ’s people should certainly do more than others.
The Sermon on the Mount is a summary of duty in the Kingdom of heaven. It is Christ’s own interpretation of the Commandments. That is the way in which our Master wishes His followers to live. We do not read far into this Sermon without finding that He expects from us a very lofty life! At the very beginning, we have the Beatitudes. Someone said to their young friend, “I want to help you to be as beautiful as God meant you to be when He first thought of you.” That is exactly what Jesus says to His followers in the Beatitudes. He makes it very plain that He is not content with ordinary religious standards in His disciples. “I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven.” The common religious life of the day was not the ideal for them.
For example, in His interpretation of the Sixth Commandment, Jesus taught that every bitter thought or feeling is a violation of the law. Anger is murder, and hatred is murder. The religious teachers of that day said that men should love their neighbors, but they defined “neighbors” to mean only a few congenial people. They said expressly that no enemy was their neighbor, and they read the law thus: “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” But Jesus’ interpretation reads, “I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” The meaning of the words was illustrated further: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the publicans the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even the Gentiles the same?” There is a higher standard for Christians than for other people.
This teaching may be applied to home life. The Christian’s home, in every way, should be happier and sweeter and holier than the home which is not Christian. When Jesus sent out His disciples, He told them to say, “Peace be to this house,” at every door which opened to them. We take great pains to please an honored and beloved friend who stays with us for a day or a week. We give him the best room. We shape all our household life, our plans, our occupations, our hours, our meals, our pleasures, and our conversation to make him happy. We try to be on our best behavior. We seek to make the home atmosphere congenial to him. What kind of home environment should we make, then, when Jesus is our Guest? Love should abound! Jesus was glad to visit the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. If there had been any nagging, wrangling, contention, strife, or unrest in the siblings’ home, would He have continued to come and stay there?
Home should also be a place of prayer. It is sad but true that Family Worship is dying out in many Christian homes. And where Family Worship dies out, the loss to the home is incalculable. It is in prayer that we get the grace which we need to make our own life sweet, pure, gentle, and kind. In prayer, we call down heaven’s peace and love. The gate of prayer opens into heaven, and then heaven’s pure blessing pours in. During the plague of great darkness in the land of Egypt, there was still light in the homes of the Israelites. There should be light in every Christian home, even while the nearby worldly homes are dark. The Christian’s home should be happier, brighter, and heavenlier than the one next door, where Jesus is not a Guest.
Love should also find expression in the Christian home. Someone may write a letter from a home which is described as beautiful and luxurious, containing everything that taste can desire and money can buy, and filled to the plenty with all kinds of adornments. But in the center of all this, the letter may still reveal a hungry heart, crying out for love. That house is cold and stately and without tenderness. A Christian home, however, should be sweetened by affectionate expression. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” “Love one to another” means a great deal! It means gentleness, kindness, charity, thoughtfulness, helpfulness, patience, and forbearance. Does the Master see this mark in the people who call themselves His followers? Is their love so unselfish that its influence pervades the neighborhood where they live, like a sweet fragrance?
How can we do a better job of making our home atmosphere suitable for the presence of our Lord Jesus to dwell in? Are our homes happier, brighter, and heavenlier than the one next door, where Jesus is not a Guest? Let’s pray that our love may have an influence on our own home life, and that it may then overflow into the neighborhood where we live!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this article! Feel free to leave your reflections and ask your questions below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always!
All for our King’s glory,
photo by Creative Clicks Photography | Lightstock.com
This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on my website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.