Thursday, July 28, 2011

Your Basic Jesus

During a recent dialogue (some called it a “debate”) on Facebook, we were discussing what it means to be a Follower of Jesus. As we were doing a little digging into what the teaching of scriptures meant for our lives and purpose on earth, one person got a bit testy with the conversation.

In some ways, I understand this resistance as we need to be cautious about our “knowledge” and being “right” about what we hold. This is the quick path the legalism and modern Pharisaism.

This person said: “…sometimes you "theologians"... think WAY too much and forget about the simplicity of Christianity. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, therefore I am a Christian! That's it! I don't have to buy into anyone else's theory... Keep it simple!!!!

I resonate with the sentiment, but only in part. My response to this was *simple.* “I wish it was.

Over nearly 40 years of being a committed disciple, I learned that following Christ is basic, but it is far from simple. These two words are not synonymous. It is essential to follow Christ. Paul clearly states that when he says to the Corinthian believers: “I resolved to know nothing except Jesus the Messiah, and him crucified.” “Jesus the Messiah” is the rudimentary truth. But the latter part of Paul’s statement carries a perplexity for all who don the flesh.

Our instinct is to survive, not die. But Christ, as well as the New Testament writers, teaches us that we must not cling to surviving. That we must indeed die to self and all that nurtures our wants and inward desires. The transformation process is rigorous and has a daily increment.

I find the first disciples’ transformation inspiring. Matthew, chapter 16 a microcosm sample. The person of Peter is easy to resonate with. He is the transformation poster boy. How often do we see his “V8 Moments” throughout the New Testament? They run right up to his canonized letters.

Jerry Tankersley, after an address to the National Prayer Breakfast, wrote an article titled: “Following Jesus is Not Easy!” In the article, he stated:

Jesus’ followers did not understand this. The meanings of his words were hidden from them. They could not perceive the truth of Jesus’ way because they had other plans for Jesus and themselves. They were spiritually blinded.

Now this remains as a central obstacle for all the followers of Jesus. Often, we do not understand what it means to follow Jesus in his rhythm of death and resurrection. We do not understand how the way of Jesus disrupts and often contradicts our world views, ideologies, and agendas.”

Within our Facebook discussion, someone asked:

Why isn't being just a ‘Christian’ enough? Why does it have to get all complicated? I don't remember anything in the Bible telling me that I had to do anything more than accept Jesus Christ in order to be a Christian. Jesus may have taught challenging and difficult things, but, he also simplified it so that everyone could get the message…I'll just keep up the faith the way I've been doing, I don't have to prove anything to anyone, I'll answer on my judgement (sic) day....

“Anything more…” I could not let this go (the person even told me that, in an accusing tone, after I responded).

Again, I understand the sentiment, but I’ve also discovered that the road of transformation has no earthly culmination. I think Peter learned this again and again. I think we all learn this until we get to the point of having “fought the good fight.”

Following Christ is basic, but it is far from being simple. Each day, many of his words echo in my ear and my flesh resists. Death to self is painful and agonizing. But resurrected life is refreshing and fruitful. Not a simple matter.

No comments: