Live as close to Jesus as you can. Constantly preach the gospel to yourself. Walk closely with a “gospel posse”. Risk or rust for the rest of your life. Love one spouse well the rest of your life. Never be surprised to discover how broken the bride of Jesus is; how immature and selfish you can be; or how much God loves you in Jesus. Ache for heaven and serve in this moment. (VIA)
Christmas Eve I saw a stable, low and very bare,
A little child in a manger.
The oxen knew Him, had Him in their care,
To men He was a stranger,
The safety of the world was lying there,
And the world’s danger.
– Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, “The Stable”
The quote below is from Gavriel Gefen’s “Jesus Movements,” in Mission Frontiers, May-June 2011 (p. 7). I found it over at NextReformation. What I find particularly interesting here is the notion of following Jesus — and not following him lightly — without feeling a need to convert to Christianity. Such a notion flies in the face of much of my own education and formation, where belief in Jesus and being part of “Christianity” (and, by default, a church) was a no-brainer.
I have, over the years grown in my understanding of what it looks like to be a Christian and not be part of a church. I’m pretty comfortable with that at this point. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever thought that one could be a follower of Jesus and actually not consider themselves to be part of Christianity.
“There is a growing phenomenon taking place concurrently within at least every sizeable region of the world today. People within numerous different tribal cultures and also people within the cultures of each of the major world religions are increasingly accepting Jesus without converting to Christianity and without joining churches. ” They are encountering Jesus in ways that change their lives forever, without them leaving one group for another.
“They are learning to discover for themselves what it means to be faithful to Jesus within their own cultures and within their own birth communities. Conversion for them is believed to be a matter of the heart and not one of joining a different, competing cultural community.
“It is usually the case that after a number of these individuals within the same community are following Jesus, they begin meeting regularly as a small group. Over time this expands into multiple small groups among the same people group or within the same country. Eventually, it becomes established as a full-fledged movement of believers in Jesus that is outside of Christendom. It becomes a Jesus movement within another tradition. Does this mean they are living their lives outside the boundaries of biblical faith? Or, are they merely living beyond the boundaries of Christendom as a competing community?
“How did Jesus live as a son of Israel? Did he create a separate and competing community from the one that was already there? Did he tell people to leave their synagogues? Did he start his own synagogues?”
Image via WikipediaBuying diet books won’t make you lose weight. Reading an auto-repair manual doesn’t make you a mechanic. Getting an online degree doesn’t make you an expert. Owning a Bible doesn’t make you a Christian, nor does joining a church. There is something more to it.
It is easy to be spiritualistic without being spiritual; it is easy to believe in Jesus Christ without being Christlike. But it is impossible to be a disciple without discipline, and the longer we deny this simple fact, the longer our church will lack relevancy and power.
Image via WikipediaThis is kind of a follow up the the previous C.S. Lewis quote, mentioning that Jesus’ message wasn’t Good News for everyone and that it caused people to be angry or frightened…in addition to leading to adoration in many as well.
We have this thing about Jesus, assuming that he’s such a “big tent” kind of person that all persons are not only welcome to come along for the ride but that they are happy to join him. Not so. We can see clearly from Scripture that his message rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. It rubbed them so wrong that they killed him. Therefore all of our talk about the inclusivity of Jesus really is shallow. While all persons are invited to follow, the life-change required was too much for many. They could not follow.
Anyway, this is on my mind today and Allan Bevere, in a blog post, has fed me this morning. He has a quote from Markus Bockmuehl’s article, “The Trouble with the Inclusive Jesus.” I consider myself a pretty “inclusive” guy, cringing at some of what I hear from the more neo-Calvinist camps in Evangelicalism. But, I need to hear what Bockmuehl wrote today.
However one parses the exegetical particulars, Jesus of Nazareth is (as Richard Hays puts it), not only the friend of sinners but also the nemesis of the wicked. Another way of putting this is to say that Jesus of Nazareth includes a remarkably wide diversity of the marginalized, yet he also marginalizes an uncomfortably diverse range of the religiously or socioeconomically included. That necessarily complicates any discussion of Jesus’ “universalism” or “inclusiveness”: Jesus, like Paul, appears to envisage the saved as well as the unsaved or the not-yet-saved … Our problem, then, is that the apparent smoothness and attractiveness of the “inclusive Jesus” hypothesis are acquired at a very high moral price. As we have seen, the structure of the argument typically follows the familiar liberal departicularizing of a Jesus who takes his stance over against the Judaism of his time: Jews were narrow, ethnic, culturally conservative; Jesus by contrast was universal, inclusive, and welcoming without exception. (p. 14, 17).
Bevere summarizes some of this thought quite well:
Current accounts of inclusiveness are indebted much more to modernity than they are to the New Testament. Richard Hays words need to be heard: Jesus is not only the friend of sinners but he is the nemesis of the wicked. The issue is not the truly inclusive nature of the Gospel, but the imposition of a broad and shallow modern inclusivism that does indeed come at a high moral price. Bishop William Willimon reminds us that during his ministry Jesus drove away more people than he attracted.
Sometimes, however, I wonder if Jesus would drive me away, too…if I paid closer attention to the call he makes on my life.
Thank God for grace.
This is the first page of Becky Garrison‘s book, Jesus Died for This: A Satirist’s Search for the Risen Christ. I loved what I read of this on the plane today. Good stuff.
Although I possess this inborn hunger to connect with the Jesus whom I encounter in the Gospels, I often wonder if he’s truly present when Christians gather together in his name. Are we really trying to put his teachings into practice or playing the Sunday morning God game? Watching the Christian cliques gather — the holy hipsters, the Promise Keeper/Suitable Helper couples who put Ken and Barbie to shame, the prayerful powerbrokers who keep the minister and the church coffers on a tight leash — reminds me that I’m not the “right” kind of Christian.
How could I ever be one of God’s girls when my deceased dad was a renegade Episcopal priest and college professor? The Rev. Dr. Karl Claudius Garrison Jr. might have hailed from the Bible Belt, but he sought salvation from a bottle of Southern Comfort.
Then again, take a good look at Jesus’ crew. They were the unclean, the unchosen, the unloved — the very people discarded by the religious establishment. What a bunch of missional misfits. No way would they be allowed to play on most Christian teams.
Here’s what I don’t get: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection turned his followers’ lives upside down. So if those disciples were willing to give up everything they had, including their lives, to follow Jesus, then why are many Christians, myself included, such misguided messes? In the words of Mike Yaconelli, the founder of The Wittenburg Door and my first editor, “What happened to the category-smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional gospel that spread through the first century like wildfire and was considered (by those in power) dangerous? What the J is going on?
I keep coming into conflict with the notion that my Gospel…indeed, my ministry and my church…is too safe.
But what would it like to make it more “dangerous?”