Initiative is generally considered a good characteristic. We hear the encouragement, “take the initiative”, or the admonition, “use your initiative”. But Jesus seems to have thought about it differently. John records several places where Jesus used the word emautou (literally, “of myself”) in the sense of taking the initiative. The pattern is interesting.
In most cases Jesus told of things He did not initiate. First, the works that He did: “I can do nothing on my own initiative . . . I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me. If I alone bear witness of myself, my testimony is not true” (John 5:30-31). He said the same about His message; He spoke what the Father taught (John 8:28; 14:10). He did not come to earth of Himself (John 7:28-29; 8:42). The Holy Spirit would behave in the same way, speaking only what He hears (John 16:13).
What a different way of living! What humility! To many of us it seems inconceivable that we would not set our own goals. And is it possible to perceive the Father’s directions so frequently and accurately that our entire lives could follow His leading? Yet that is how the life of Jesus was lived. With one exception . . . .
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from me, but I lay it down on my own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18).
It was Jesus’ decision to allow Himself to be killed. He applied His initiative to make the decision to obey the Father’s command. The Father also commanded Him what to speak and He obeyed (John 12:49). Isn’t that how it happens when God prompts us to do something? He never forces us; we get to choose. It requires our initiative to repeatedly submit to the will of God.
Now, that’s a new way of using our initiative, isn’t it?