His Supreme Example

Why should Jesus be given a preeminent position in our lives? We could give different answers to that question. Some would point to his miraculous powers. Others would note his compassion and servant attitude. Still others might talk about his remarkable ability to make heavenly truths understandable to earthlings. There are many reasons why Jesus is adored by millions.
But why has God set Jesus in that preeminent position? The author of Hebrews gave the answer to that inquiry: “But to the Son he says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your companions'” (Hebrews 1:8,9, NKJV).
The latter part of that passage reveals that Jesus has been set higher than all others by God. The reason for such an honor is also stated: “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.” That’s a thought worthy of long reflection.
“Righteousness” may be a big word, but it’s a simple concept: doing what is right. We know what is right because God has shown it in his word. Jesus, it is affirmed, loved righteousness. That fact was evident throughout his earthly life. He was devoted to his heavenly father and spent much time in prayer and study of the scriptures. When choices had to be made, he always chose what was right (see Hebrews 4:15).
The latter part of that formula is where Christians often struggle. To hate lawlessness often requires more faith, for sin frequently appears pleasant, reasonable, even right. Notable people in the Bible obviously loved righteousness, but they didn’t always hate lawlessness (e.g. David, Solomon, Peter — even Judas).
What is “lawlessness”? It sounds so extreme, and few of us regard ourselves as extremely wicked. John makes it clearer for us: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). I don’t have to be grossly wicked (by the world’s standards) in order to be guilty of lawlessness. I only have to neglect some of the more simple commands of God — like loving my enemy, forgiving those who have sinned against me, abstaining from covetousness, etc.
But how can we learn to hate lawlessness like Jesus did? To help us do that, God has provided a visual aid. The cross on which Jesus was executed ought to produce in righteous people a feeling of disgust for sin in any of its forms. The cross reminds us that a perfectly good and innocent life was destroyed by people who let sin take root in their hearts. It can happen to us, too, if we’re not diligent to remain free from sin.
We have the hope that one day God will exalt us, too (James 4:10). Will not that exaltation come to those who live by the same formula as Jesus: those who love righteousness and hate lawlessness?

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