“I believe that Jesus’ greatest example to us is how He dealt with the suffering of others. You don’t have to be a Christian to understand what Jesus Christ has done for the world.”
Devin Booker, an NBA basketball star for the Phoenix Suns, has emulated his idol, the late Kobe Bryant, his entire basketball career. ESPN’s Malika Andrews interviewed Booker during the 2021 NBA Finals and asked him what he thought his mentor, the Black Mamba, would say to him. Booker replied, “‘Finish the job.’ That’s what he’d tell me. . . He’d say, ‘Get it done.’” Booker reflected on what Kobe did as his example by “just taking bits and pieces” of his approach, mentality, and competitive nature. He added, “You don’t even have to be a basketball player to understand what Kobe has done for the game” (Devin Booker on the 2021 NBA Finals, YouTube, 00:1:24 – 00:2:33).
Before Kobe Bryant’s untimely death, his advice to Booker was: “Be legendary.” Booker has acknowledged that Bryant was a near-constant presence in his mind and that the Mamba’s mentality extended far beyond basketball’s traditional boundaries. Kobe’s example and influence in his life have helped Booker emerge as one of the NBA’s biggest stars over the last two seasons and has caused him to play a pivotal role in Phoenix, reaching the 2021 NBA Finals for the first time since 1993.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor described her mentor, law professor José Cabranes, to The Cut magazine (January 26, 2017) as transcending the academic role while upholding his Puerto Rican identity. Sotomayor expressed the benefit of his example: “A role model in the flesh provides more than an inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, ‘Yes, someone like me can do this.’” That is what Jesus does for the Christian. We may doubt our ability to be a light in the world, but His everyday example of simple acts of care should give each of us reason to believe, “Yes, someone like me can do this.”
I suppose we have all admired or emulated someone whom we thought was remarkable. For Devin Booker, it was Kobe Bryant. For Justice Sotomayor, it was José Cabranes. For the child of God, it may be someone who has made an indelible impression on your life, perhaps a Bible character. But hopefully and ultimately, it is Jesus Christ, the greatest example of all humankind.
One might ask, “What is Jesus’ greatest example that we should follow as Christians? How can we emulate Him and be His hands and feet in our society?” Yes, Jesus demonstrated his God-nature with His supernatural abilities and did many marvelous miracles. And indeed, Jesus has shown us how to pray, in His model prayer found in Matthew 6. He has even been the perfect example of loving our enemies and forgiving those who wrong us. However, I believe that Jesus’ greatest example to us is how He dealt with the suffering of others. You don’t have to be a Christian to understand what Jesus Christ has done for the world. Even Louis Farrakhan, the Muslim leader of the Nation of Islam, teaches about the legendary life of Jesus as the greatest example of all humankind.
In Acts 10:38, the Bible says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” What a powerful testament, and what an incredible example Jesus has left for those who follow Him!
Likewise, Jesus gave His church the Gospel Commission and told them to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And when they received the Spirit of God, they went out with power and turned their world upside down! As Christians, we, too, are blessed to have the promise of God’s Spirit and presence in our lives. He has given us the same privilege and charge to go into all the world, preach the gospel, and do good. We must finish the job. Get it done!
But how do we get it done with so many challenges in our world today? First, we must make Jesus a constant presence in our minds. Second, as Jesus’ mentality extended far beyond the traditional boundaries of the church and synagogue, so must ours.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic and Delta Variant have only multiplied the world’s problems and added their own deathly layers of complexities. Our seniors have been isolated for over 18 months, living in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions and trying to survive the isolation that social distancing has created. Even worse, many families have lost loved ones during this pandemic, including families suffering financial devastation after losing their primary breadwinner. It doesn’t stop there. As of July 2021, more than 100,000 U.S. children were orphaned by the pandemic (CBS Evening News, July 22, 2021). They are struggling with “pandemic grief,” and researchers note increased childhood depression and PTSD.
These tragedies and more have filled our land with grief, created vacancies at the dinner table, and left an emptiness in the home. There is an onus on us Christians to be a present help to our seniors, orphans, and widows, showing them that they are not alone. The Bible tells us in both Old and New Testaments that we are to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, that we are to do good; relieve the oppressed, seek justice for the fatherless, and plead for the widow’s cause.
Consider the challenges of family caregivers—caregivers of COVID-19 victims, seniors, the disabled, and parents of school-aged children. Many of them lost wages or jobs due to COVID-19-related closings and are now struggling to homeschool, put food on the table, avoid eviction and foreclosure, or desperately in need of a break.
There are too many challenges to name. But perhaps, these tragedies have created opportunities to minister to our seasoned citizens and others affected by the pandemic. Maybe there are other opportunities that you know of for church ministries to organize themselves into bands of Christians, empowered by the Holy Ghost, to go out and do good. Avail yourself of opportunities to serve people different from you or who live in other regions.
Jesus broke cultural barriers and ministered to those outside of His ethnicity, gender, and social status. He, being a Jew, often reached out and touched people who were considered by His traditional Jewish culture beyond the reach of God or untouchable. We should take on Christ’s approach to love and ministry, His mentality, and His compassionate nature by ministering in the lives of people regardless of their social status, education, age, gender, race, ethnicity, religious background, skin color, body type, abilities, mental disease, criminal history, sin, or reputation.
Jesus approached ministry by addressing issues that others could not. You may not be able to feed 5,000-plus people with two fish and five loaves of bread; however, you have been anointed in a realm of expertise that others have not. Use that to solve needs. Some of us have a gift for knowing just what to say to encourage a lonely heart or weary mind on a phone call or in a letter or text message. You may be skilled in providing grief counseling for children and adults. Maybe you have a remarkable ability, such as making people laugh, being a companion for a grieving person, or giving respite to caregivers. Assisting seniors or disabled persons with pet care, home cleaning, lawn care, or clearing a snowy driveway or walkway may be your thing. Providing a ride for a medical appointment or grocery shopping or fixing a leaky faucet would be a total godsend to many struck by tragedy. The list is limitless. Our capabilities are the miracles someone desperately needs.
Jesus’ life and miracles were relevant to the needs of the people, directly reflecting God’s good intentions toward us. Jesus told His disciples that “if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” Christ was God in the flesh—loving and compassionate but human, like us. This God-man, Jesus, helped people rise above circumstances more powerful than themselves, despite their misconceptions about who He was. So, likewise, when people see us going about doing good, we want them to see Jesus, a loving and living God.
People may not understand Christianity, but they do understand good deeds. That’s why Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven”—Matthew 5:16, (MEV). His example is our proof that we, as a body of believers, can be a reflection of God’s love. “Yes, someone like me can do this!” His Spirit is our power and proof that we are not alone. Jesus told His followers before His death, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” —Matthew 28:20. So, in Jesus’ name, I’m telling you: Do good and be legendary!