Is faith in Jesus opposed to reason? Certainly not! Pastor Charles Edward Jefferson shows why Jesus is the most reasonable man you could meet.

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Think about it

“Jesus was a man of unparalleled common sense. Would you see how rational he is, study his attitude to life.”

Our Unreasonable Objections

“There is a widespread impression, especially among young people of a certain age, that Jesus is unreasonable, and that Christianity is a religion which constantly makes war on reason. Young men sometimes say, ‘I do not want to join the church because I want to use my reason.’ How strange such language when Jesus from first to last pleads for the use of the reason.”

“Men often think they are using their reason when in fact they are exercising their prejudices or suffering from paralysis of the brain. I have heard men rail at Christianity as unreasonable because a certain Christian man had said a certain thing, as though Jesus of Nazareth must be held responsible for everything that every follower of his may think or say. Other men have been hopelessly estranged from Christianity because of certain statements they have read in certain books. How unreasonable! It surely is not fair to hold Jesus of Nazareth responsible for everything which men who bear his name may think or publish.”

“If men want to know whether Christianity is reasonable or not, why do they not read the Gospels? They are short and can be read through at least once a week, and yet men go right on refusing to read the Gospels — the one source of all authentic information as to what the Christian religion really is. Many think nothing of reading a novel of four hundred pages who stagger under the task of reading the four Gospels. It is just such persons who like to talk about the unreasonableness of Christianity. Why not be reasonable? Christianity has but one authoritative volume. Why not read it?”

Our Unreasonable Way of Life

“Open your New Testament, then, and see Jesus’ attitude to life. The word ‘life’ was often on his lips. . . . He wanted men to live. The tragedy of the world to him was that human life was everywhere so thin and meager. ‘I came that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly,’ thus did he express the object of his coming. ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ It was in such phrases that he endeavored to give men an idea of his mission and his person.”

“Men everywhere want to live, but the tragedy of the world is that they do not succeed. . . . We do the very things which curtail the capacity for living and dry up the springs of vitality. We are imitative creatures, all of us, and we mimic the habits and methods of those around us to our hurt. We are cowards all of us, and we allow ourselves to be hoodwinked and browbeaten and cheated out of our birthright. We are greedy, all of us, and in our eagerness to secure the things on which we have set our heart we become feverish and wretched, losing out of life its richest satisfactions. We are shortsighted, all of us, and in order to attain immediate ends we barter away the treasures of coming years. Life is not full or rich or sweet for many of us because we are handicapped by our doubts and hampered by our fears and enslaved by the unreasonable standards and requirements of a foolish world.”

“It is the aim of Jesus to break the fetters and let life out to its completion. To do a thing which reduces the volume and richness of a man’s life is foolish. We are reasonable in our conduct only when we are doing things which give life fuller capacity and power. Jesus was always reasoning with men in regard to the right way of living. . . . His attitude from first to last is the attitude of God as pictured by Isaiah. He was always saying, ‘Come, now, let us reason together.'”

Sermon on the Mount of Reason

“The Sermon on the Mount is the part of the New Testament which is nowadays universally praised, and no wonder. Every sentence is a pearl, and every paragraph is the classical expression of unadulterated common sense.”

“Men in the first century had overdeveloped the forms of prayer. . . . They said the same thing over and over again and called it praying. They repeated pious words on the street corners and were satisfied if their neighbors looking on called it praying. To Jesus all such devotion was ridiculous. If God is an intelligent Being, what is the use of any such mummery and mockery as this? If God is Spirit, then to pray to him is to come into communion with him, and you can do that best when you are alone and have shut all the world out. It is not necessary to multiply words, the things essential being sincerity and spiritual contact. How sensible, so reasonable that it will never become obsolete.”

“Equally sane is he on the subject of fasting. The exercise of fasting in Palestine had been elaborated into a system. Men fasted by the clock. Precise rules were laid down and to obey these regulations punctiliously was the ambition of the pious. . . . But to Jesus the whole system was mechanical and abominable. There was no reason in it. It was utterly formal and deadening and stupid. Moreover, to make a display of it and flaunt the signs of it in the eyes of the world was contemptible. Fasting if it is to have value at all must be an exercise of the soul. It is the spirit which is central. . . . It is not the abstinence from food which is pleasing to the Almighty, but the condition of the heart of the person who is doing the fasting. . . . How illuminating and sensible!”

No Rest from Reason

“Jesus would not allow himself to be swayed or daunted by institutions however sacred. Among the Jews there was no institution held in higher reverence than the Sabbath. So deep was the reverence that it degenerated into slavery. The day was made so holy that there was no living with it. The rules of Sabbath observance were so numerous that one could not turn round without breaking several of them.”

“Jesus saw at once through all the mass of rubbish which had accumulated . . . and laid down a maxim which shed light brilliant as the sun at noon. ‘The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.’ The life of man is the first thing to consider. . . . Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath Day? Is it lawful to save life on the Sabbath? It was with such questions that he punctured the inflated reasonings of the Jerusalem dunces, and set men free from a bondage which had become intolerable. His view of Sabbath observance is reasonable.”

The Golden Rule of Reason

“There is one sentence in the New Testament which by the vote of the world has been counted golden: ‘Therefore, whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them.’ What is this but perfect sense?”

“But someone may ask: Does not Christianity insist upon a namby-pamby attitude to the forces of the world? Does Jesus not virtually exhort his disciples to lie down and let men walk over them? No. You have gotten that idea from books other than the New Testament. Jesus is sensible at every point. ‘Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine, lest haply they trample them under their feet and turn and rend you’. . . . All men are not alike. All men are not to be treated alike. . . . When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach, he told them if people were unwilling to listen to them, to shake the dust from their sandals against them and go somewhere else. He followed that plan himself. No limp and sugary weakling was he. . . . Nowhere is he more sensible than in his attitude to bad men.”

Our Unreasonable Expectations

“But someone says, ‘Is he not unreasonable in demanding that we believe a lot of doctrines which we cannot understand?’ Where does he demand that? Put your finger on the place, for I cannot find it. When I open the New Testament I hear him saying: ‘Follow me!’ . . . And when men wanted to know how they were to ascertain whether or not he was indeed a leader worthy of being followed, his reply was, ‘If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching whether it be of God, or whether I speak from myself.’ Is this not reasonable?”

“Jesus says if you want to understand the Christian life, then work at it. If you desire to know the truth, then live it. This is common sense. How else could one find the truth of a religion if he did not work at it? If you want to learn to speak Italian, you do not simply think about it, or read about it, but you go to work on it. It requires a deal of work, but no matter. . . . Just so is it with the Christian life. Men imagine they can become Christians by thinking about it, or reading about it, or hearing a preacher talk about it. How absurd! You can never become a Christian until you are willing to work at it. Are you willing to begin now?”

Excerpts from The Character of Jesus by Charles Edward Jefferson (Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1908)

11 thoughts

  1. Friends, here are a few questions to ask yourself to get the most out of this character study: Do you live the abundant life of joy Jesus promised? Even with its trials, does your life have His fullness and joy? To what extent have you followed Jesus’s commands and seen for yourself that they are not unreasonable burdens, but the way to live a full and joyous life? What unreasonable idols, fears, and doubts still hold you back from following the reasonable, liberating, life-giving commands of Jesus?

    Want to know Jesus better? Join us in classes on the character of the King! Scroll down and post a prayerful reply, and we will email details to you.

  2. How I wish I would have investigated the teachings of Jesus at a younger age!

    For years, I focused primarily on pleasing myself. I had no life blueprint. My self-confidence was brittle, given that it was based upon my own self-perceptions and accomplishments. I never read the Bible. So, rarely did I encounter the teachings of Jesus, nevermind put them into practice!

    Thankfully, I responded to the love of Christ shortly after my 21st birthday and began to follow Him. His expectations were initially intimidating; however, I soon began to realize as I put his teachings into practice that they were both beneficial and reasonable. Thirty-one years later, I now have a track record to test against his audacious claim:

    “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching is my own or whether it comes from Him who sent me.” John 7:17

    Today, more than ever, I am convinced that Jesus offers us the best blueprint for life — not parents, teachers, business consultants, life coaches, philosophers, or anyone else who would point us in a different direction. Why? He is the Son of God. As our creator, He knows best. I see the powerful results in every area of my life (e.g., character changes, marriage, parenting, friendships).

    His teaching is primarily not to expose sin and wrongdoing, although this it does well. No, He is pointing us toward a new life — a better life, an abundant life. How I wish I would have discovered this truth much sooner. It would have saved me and those whom I influenced a lot of unnecessary heartache!

  3. I had been reading the Bible, going to church, professing to be a Christian, but I wasn’t living it. As I grew I became convicted, and the Holy Spirit worked in me. Now I’m growing in living who I am in Christ. It’s a battle going on inside me as I live for the Lord.

  4. When I make my life about anything other than Jesus, I’m heading down the wrong road. Glory to God, He calls me back.

  5. I thank God for the Word that strengthens me every time I read, and I know God is able to do more than we expect.

  6. When I was young I knew about the Lord, but did not really KNOW Him. Now I do, through His Word, and I FOLLOW Him. I can commune with Him 24/7. I am in peace, no matter what, for His Holy Spirit dwells in me. Thank you, my precious Savior!

  7. I’m in love with Jesus, his Father, and the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t always that way. I lost a lot, hurt a lot, hurt others. I thank God for keeping me when I didn’t know any better or care. I care now more than life itself for Jesus and all his ways. He is the truth and the light. No one can go to the Father but by him. Praise God!

  8. I never knew the way, the truth, and the life. Most of my life was about self and my desires. I knew of God, but He was on the bottom of my mountain. Then one day, He gripped my heart and picked me up off the ground. Today with all my heart, I desire Him. I seek His heart and long for His return. He is my hope, my joy, and my grace. We have been given a gift, the gift of salvation. When we approach the throne of God, we are mere flesh, weak and poor. Unless we make it right with His Majesty, the joy we desire is across the ocean.

  9. I am lost in this world, but I am on the path to being found. In the last paragraph of the message on this page, it says that we as men think we are Christians because we may go to church or read the Bible or try to live “right.” This person is me. I am guilty of this. I do not understand everything in the Bible. I do not understand what it takes to live the life. But I do know that I am now willing to take that step. I am willing to give it all to God. For the first time, I am not scared. I am excited! Prayers please for my new journey.

  10. I think I am beginning to see the abundant life Jesus has for me, because I have ample time to spend studying Jesus’s word every day. I’m growing in the knowledge of Him. I’m beginning to look at a given situation and ask myself, How would Jesus handle what I’m facing now?

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