The most striking thing to mark keenly about ideals, God's ideals, is this: they have been lived. The thing can be done because it has been done. They have been lived in one of the worst moral periods of history, and in one of the religiously narrowest and most bigoted corners of the earth.
It seems to be pretty well settled now, that long ago a Man lived, for as much as thirty-three years, who held the highest ideals, and never compromised them one whit, in the life he lived. Yet he was not removed from the sort of life we live. He had to work hard to earn a living for himself and his household. He lived in a very humble sort of family, where all the testings of ideals come closest home. He belonged to a little village community, just such as most of us know, and live in, or have lived in. And He actually lived his ideals amid such surroundings,—ideals that have been commonly recognised as the moral high-water mark of all history.
God is an idealist. And Jesus came to let men see that this ideal God fits perfectly into human life, just as it goes on in everyday affairs. Certainly no one will think that the world was in an ideal condition when Jesus came. Historians are agreed that it was in about as bad shape morally as a world could get into. And all are agreed, too, that this Jesus lived a truly ideal life, and at the same time an intensely practical life, fitting into things just as he found them.
Though He was divine, in a sense that no one else was or can be, He was also human with a naturalness and simplicity that none other has known, though all may know. That he lived a truly human life, just such as common men are expected to live, that is, with no special gift of divine grace beyond what any man may have, is clearly shown by the simple but very striking fact that his brothers, brought up in the same family, did not believe in His divine claim and mission. (Joh_7:3-5 <http://www.crossbooks.com/verse.asp?ref=Jn+7:3-5>.)
To them there was nothing in His life as they had known Him, such as they supposed there should be if He were really the Son of God that He said He was. There could be no stronger nor simpler evidence of the perfect naturalness of the human life He lived in Nazareth, than this disbelief by these brothers, who lived with Him for years in the same home.
Yet mark very keenly that Jesus didn't find it easy to live His ideals. He was stubbornly opposed in them, both at home, and in His home village, and out in public life. He had to fight for them, and to fight hard, every foot of the way. And it was real fighting, too, with moist brow, and shut jaw, and earnestly breathed prayer. He lived them in the presence of, and in spite of, sneers and criticism and cynicism and attempted violence.
And he was a man, a human, as truly a man as though only a man, living His life just exactly as we live ours. That is to say, He personally made choice of these ideals as His own. He depended upon His own strong resolution, backed by earnest prayer, in keeping true to them. He maintained them against all comers; just exactly as one must do to-day.
And,—listen softly, with the ears of your heart,—that Man promised to have the same Spirit that filled Him and steadied Him, come into each one of us, and lead us safely and victoriously along the same well-beaten path He travelled. Aye, and some of us have found out that that wondrous Spirit does come, and does lead along that old road up to the heights. Even though a tear-misted vision of slips and faults, and at times of only partial victories lies behind, yet the ideals are sweeter than ever since they have been worked into real life.