Follow JesusI’m painfully aware that I haven’t blogged much lately. Sometimes you go through a patch where inspiration is harder to find; something I’m learning is that it’s best at such times to simply take the pressure off yourself and wait for your mojo to return. So think of this as a seasonal slump, and fear not: I’m sure I’ll soon be back in full swing.

In the meantime, today I’d like to share a simple thought that I’ve been pondering recently.

It seems to me that in many cases, the Christian faith has been reduced to a set of propositional truths. Faced with the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”, I suspect many people would give an answer along the lines that being a Christian means believing in various doctrines. Further, the required doctrines are often nicely summed up in a church statement of beliefs or, failing that, we can easily fall back on one of the historic creeds.

The point is that for many people, being a Christian is purely about what you believe.

In light of how Jesus lived and what he taught, I find this curious.

Consider: how would Jesus have responded if asked what it meant to be a Christian? Well, obviously, first of all it would have been no use asking him that question back in first century Palestine, since the word Christian didn’t even exist while Jesus was still on the earth. But if you’d asked him what it meant to be his follower, he might have answered…

…that you should sell all your riches and give the money to the poor.

…that you should put others’ needs before your own.

…that you should love not only your neighbour but also your enemies.

In fact, of course, these are some of the actual explanations Jesus is reported to have given for what it meant to be his follower.

It strikes me that Jesus spent very little time going around telling people what to believe, but a whole lot of time and effort teaching people how to live.

Believing in (i.e. mentally assenting to) a doctrine in your head is quite a different thing from determining to live your life a certain way. There are lots of things you can believe without it making one iota of difference to how you behave. And, because we generally quite like to live our lives how we want, the temptation to look to Jesus merely as a dispenser of theological truths while sidelining his teaching on how to live – which is to say, the bulk of his teaching – is very great. And so it is that we can quite easily end up believing in all kinds of important things – such as, for example, Jesus’ divinity and resurrection – while continuing to live lives characterised by greed, selfish ambition, violence, and so on.

To tie this all together before it turns into an aimless ramble, a few days ago I came across a wonderful little video by Canadian pastor-teacher Bruxy Cavey. If you want to watch the whole thing, you can do so here, but there was one thing he said that really stood out to me, and it was this:

To say “Jesus is Lord” is to say, “You’re the one who has the right to tell me how to live”.

I really like this, and here’s why: it’s a powerful reminder that Jesus is actually not all that interested in us looking to him for doctrinal or theological correctness. Rather, he wants us to look to him as our teacher and model of how to live as children of the Father’s kingdom. In other words, what he’s mainly looking for is followers and not simply believers. Which are you?

[ Image: New Life Church Collingwood ]