This is a re-post of an article that I wrote last Easter Time. Well, as it is Easter again (almost) here you go! An”oldie” and I hope you think it is a “goodie”…at least thought provoking and somewhat informative and inspiring:)
April 6, 2012 ~Thomas Jefferson, one of our American Founding Fathers and drafter of the brilliant Declaration of Independence said, “I am a real Christian. That is to say, a discipline of the doctrines of Jesus.” So what is the difference between being a “Christian” and being a follower of Jesus?
I can see Jefferson, arguing passionately during the creation of our American Political system, believing that the separation of church and state was imperative to ensure that religious zealots could not cause the same kind of nightmarish situations that happened so frequently throughout history. Jefferson was also trying to make certain that no political leader could prevent a believer from openly practicing the religion of his choosing. Amazingly, the struggle and disagreement and inability to find a happy balance between the two is an issue that continues to be at the fore-front of our political discussion and social agenda. The church, in my opinion, should not be a bully pulpit for powers that seek to advance their own “moral” beliefs in the guise of a political agenda. And the state should not seek to command a man’s conscience or dictate by law and punishment decisions that should be left for each individual to determine based on that man’s own spiritual beliefs. There are a lot of people hoping, and very likely they will be successful at winning political elections based on their “Faith”…or proclaimed faith. do I sound cynical? In America, it is likely the wanna-be leaders or trying- to- remain leaders are professing to be strong “Christians.” What is the difference in professing to be a Christian, and being a follower of Jesus. By definition a follower is, “one who follows another’s teachings.” Wouldn’t it be reasonable then to assume that a person who professes and makes claim that they are a follower of Jesus would actually know what Jesus said… and what he did…and try very hard to live in a way that reflects who and what he is following?
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am in NO WAY trying to tell you that I have the answers or that I am Right and anybody who disagrees with me is Wrong. Quite the opposite. I am saying that I don’t know all of the answers, and therefore I can’t tell you that I am Right… but please don’t tell me that I am wrong. You can always tell me what you think, and what you say might make me think about things in a different way…and if you have a persuasive argument you may just win me over to your way of thinking… but don’t try to force me to think your way too.
One of the singer Bonnie Raitt’s songs has the lyrics: “Cause what is livin’ if I can’t live free / What is freedom if I can’t be me / Take me down/ You can hold me but you can’t hold what’s within/ Pull me down/ Push me to the limit/ Maybe I may bend/ But I know where I’m not going/ I will not be broken…I won’t let you near it/ I will let my spirit fly…” I think about all of the rigid laws of the Pharisees and Sadducees…. and I don’t think that the Religious Leaders of today are much different. They like to tell us that we are all going to hell if we don’t believe as they do, or do as they do… or do as they SAY to do. I personally prefer to try my best to learn about what Jesus would want me to do… and trust the Holy Spirit to direct me in the way that I should go. I wish that Leaders of the “Christian” church would decide to be followers of Jesus before they expect us to follow them… and I wish political leaders that think they have a moral authority to make laws based on their Faith would instead make a personal decision to be servants as Jesus says we should be. Can you imagine if political leaders made laws that followed Jesus’ views on taking care of one another and acceptance and inclusion and forgiveness and love and mercy and peace? Wow. Sounds like Heaven on Earth. Sounds like a prayer that Jesus taught us to pray…”Thy Kingdom Come. Thy Will Be Done. On earth as it is in Heaven.”
I suppose there are a lot of ways to interpret a song like Bonnie’s, but to me, it is a plea against controlling another person, against trying to break another person’s spirit. To me it is a song to agree to let God do His job to work through and in each of us, and to allow each person to be the person we are meant by God to be. It is about seeking The Way, and being strong in following it. An article I read recently made some points that seemed so completely on target to me, that I felt like I had to share them… especially near Holy week… a week that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice to show us how to live, and how to die, and how to live again.
Andrew Sullivan writes, “Jesus’ doctrines were the practical commandments…Not simply love one another, but love your enemy and forgive those who harm you; give up all material wealth; love the ineffable Being behind all things, and know that this Being is actually your truest Father, in whose image you were made. Above all: *GIVE UP POWER OVER OTHERS, because power, if it is to be effective, ultimately requires the threat of violence, and violence is incompatible with the total acceptance and love of all other human beings that is the sacred heart of Jesus’ teaching. That’s why, in his final apolitical act, Jesus never defended his innocence at trial, never resisted his crucifixion, and even turned to those nailing his hands to the wood on the cross and forgave, and loved them.” (* capital letters are mine)
Sullivan goes on to pose the questions, “What does it matter how strictly you proclaim your belief in various doctrines if you do not live as these doctrines demand? What is politics if not the dangerous temptation toward controlling others rather than reforming oneself?”
I am not advocating tyranny. But I absolutely agree with the Queen Latifa character in “Joyful Noise” that makes a comment something along the lines of, “If everybody was busy cleaning their own front porch the world would be a lot cleaner place.” Individual responsibility… individual soul-searching for the good and how to help that good become better is, in my opinion, what we should all be busy focused on. What can I do? For my own people…for you…for everybody…for the world?
Many “Christian” churches these days are preaching individualism, not responsibility and care for our fellow-man. They are preaching individual prosperity and materialism…and claiming that the acquisition of riches is a blessing from God. But the Bible makes it clear that the person to whom much has been given, much will also be required. And that it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. God is a jealous God, and He will not accept to be loved second to power or fame or money or riches or to anything or anyone else.
My own personal belief is stated again in some more of Sullivan’s sage commentary: “The cross itself was not the point; nor was the intense physical suffering he (Jesus) endured. The point was how he conducted himself through it all – calm, loving, accepting, radically surrendering even the basic control of his own body and telling us that this was what it means to truly transcend our world and be with God. Jesus…possessed nothing – and thereby everything.” Wow. What an idea. If we desire nothing except communion and fellowship with God, perhaps then the things that we are granted by God and that sustain us and give us joy, we will be truly grateful for. When God is the cake…wonderful and completely filling by Himself…then EVERYTHING else is the icing!
Sullivan concludes his article with the following thoughts: “I have no concrete idea how Christianity will wrestle free of its current crisis… and its enmeshments with the things of this world. But I do know it won’t happen by even more furious denunciations of others, by focusing on politics rather than prayer, by concerning ourselves with the sex-lives and heretical thoughts of others rather than the constant struggle to liberate ourselves from what keeps us from God… Christianity comes not from the head or the gut, but from the soul. It is as meek as it is quietly liberating. It does not seize the moment; it lets it be…And it is not afraid.”
“Do not be afraid.” Many of my other articles that I have posted in the past stress the many times in the Bible where we are told not to be afraid. The world…evil…the Devil, whatever you want to attribute as ” the thing” that keeps us from being in harmony with God and at peace will always be rearing its ugly head and making us take our eyes off of God. That is “the things” sole purpose, and what God warns us about. Life is scary. The prospect of our body and all that we know dying one day is scary. But do we live the precious time that we are given in fear of what will happen and about things that are out of our control? Do we waste the time that we have to love and to share with others worried and fearful? Or do we follow the example of Jesus? Jesus entered the gates of Jerusalem riding on a donkey…being cheered by the crowd who laid palm branches down as he passed. But Jesus wept tears, not because he felt sorry for himself but because he know what would happen within a matter of days. These followers would become the angry mob that disowned him and yelled for him to be crucified. Taken into custody, and falsely charged, he was humiliated, heckled and tortured. The mob watched him be nailed to a tree and pierced with a sword, but Jesus did not fight back. He did not desire revenge. He accepted what he was supposed to do, and understood why he must do it. Jesus did a radical thing… he didn’t place blame. He finished his mortal life the same way he taught others to live. And, even in the face of death, he was not afraid. He said, as he hung on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
I want that kind of peace. I want to be calm in the midst of life’s storms. I want to love when it seems like from the world’s standards that I would be justified to hate. I want to accept that there are things that happen that I can’t understand, and that are out of my control…but have faith that in God’s time all things will work out. I want to find forgiveness in my heart and be able to say with all sincerity, “Father, forgive them, just as you forgive me.” I want to embrace the lesson of Easter : That no matter what happens to my body or in my life, or even to my life, that there is Victory in Jesus.
“Victory in Jesus, My Saviour Forever. He sought me and bought me with his redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due him…”
” All the power of death is dead. It is finished. He has done it! Life conquered death… Jesus Christ…has won it!” Keith Green The Victor
I will not be broken. My body might get broken, and my heart might get broken, and I might feel like I am lost or that I have lost. But I am the victor. I am His… was and always will be. I claim the Victory. I will not be afraid, and all the days of my life I hope not to just be a” Christian”, but to try my best every day to be a Follower of Jesus. There is a lot of meaning in a name. My name is “Christy ~ Follower of Christ”. Praise be to God!