For me to follow Jesus
Faith for those unwilling to ever face death
When I was first persuaded of the merits of this Jesus character it was by a committed group who belonged in the Evangelical camp. The story they told me was that I needed to accept the ‘gift’ of Christ in order to not end up in the fires of hell. I figured that was something I would be wise to do.
In the intervening years I have maintained my interest in and commitment to Jesus. However, my appreciation of what Jesus offers and what it means for me to respond has changed significantly. I am no longer convinced it is necessary to scare the hell out of a person for them to see merit in following Jesus.
I have come to see that looking to Jesus simply as the one who saves me from eternal torment is essentially all about me. This approach to Jesus functions as a protection of my present sense of life/self. This as an approach to faith for those unwilling to ever face death.
Faith for those willing to go through death
Contrast this with Jesus who continually taught things like, ‘For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.’ (Mark 8:35).
It is clear that Jesus was aware that the decisions he made and the ways he behaved made him increasingly vulnerable. If there were an alternative approach, surely Jesus would have opted for it. A life of increasing vulnerability (non-violence) is the life of the Kingdom of God. Loosing life is the way to saving it, and vice-versa.
When we are unwilling to forgo our pre-established understanding of our self, another and/or the circumstances in view, we are unable to understand and enter more fully into the relationship. Unless we let go of (allow to die) that which we have assumed, the relationship will die.
Identifying and letting go of our assumptions is difficult because those assumptions offer us something we are unwilling to give up. Yet fullness of life (eternal life) is experienced when we step beyond our assumptions and self-serving ways.
Church for those unwilling to ever face death
The ‘faith dynamic’ of unwillingness to face death has had a devastating impact on our expressions of church. Even as we celebrate the story of Jesus and proclaim his teachings we function as a community that is reluctant to face reality.
We create liturgies, preach sermons, run programs and conduct worship gatherings in the hope that others might join us. When these activities are conducted in the hope that we might ‘stay alive’ (our church might continue to exist), a subtle shift has taken place. This is no longer primarily about following Jesus.
We frame the argument in terms of wanting to keep the gospel witness alive. But the gospel has been lost in the attempt to save it (ringing any bells?). Are we really surprised that there is so little testimony to the lived reality of the kingdom of God? Where is the compelling reason to commit to our institution? Evidence suggests few see one.
Church for those willing to go through death
I am not interested in a church that survives. I am now convinced that life and death go together and the opposite is the half-life of survival!
I want to follow Jesus… to embody his values, purposes and desires, which resulted in his death at the hands of worldly and religious authorities alike. It is a path of ever increasing vulnerability in a violent world. It is either insane…or the way of a life so rich that Jesus referred to it as eternal.
It is time to be willing to lose our life in following Jesus. Simply seeking to slow our demise has been fatal. It is not about surviving. It is about dying and living.
Rev. Dave Gore
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