The problem with following Jesus

Cross-roadIf we were to take an honest look at Church history (since Constantine), we would have to admit that, as a whole, we have not been following Jesus.

What do I mean by this provocative statement?

First, I don’t mean that we haven’t believed in Jesus, served Jesus, loved Jesus, even worshiped Jesus. I have no doubt we’re believers in that regard. What I mean is, we haven’t taken Jesus’ teachings seriously, so we don’t follow them…and when we don’t follow them, we’re not actually following Jesus.

We’re following a religion we call “Christianity” rather than following Christ.

While there have been notable exceptions, because we don’t take Jesus’ teachings seriously, we don’t look like Jesus either. Instead, we look like those who think it’s okay to hold onto unforgiveness, stay angry, break off relationships that challenge us, seek revenge on those who’ve hurt us, ignore injustice when it’s not to our political tastes, or justify ourselves whenever we take advantage of another human being (or nation) because it suits our own interests…

Do you see how hard it is to actually follow Jesus?

And because we don’t want to judge ourselves and take the “log” out of our own eye, we think it’s okay to judge other people’s “specks”…that it’s okay to tell everyone else in the world what’s wrong with them.

So, God must judge our hypocrisy by sending atheists to point this out to us.

Bill_MaherFor instance, Bill Maher is spot-on when he talks about our evangelical hypocrisy in this clip. I only provide the link because of the strong language and would suggest you don’t watch it if you’re easily offended. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to receive correction from an adversary, by all means, watch it. I personally found it both funny and sadly true.

The problem with following Jesus is that we actually have to do what He says…

And I’m not talking about following Jesus legalistically; I’m talking about heart issues. Do we have the heart to turn the other cheek and return the evil done to us with good? Are we willing to give more than we’re asked, to actually love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us, instead of wanting them to get what they deserve?

On that thought, as a Christ-ian, should we want anyone to get what they deserve?

I asked this question in my post, “Jesus’ teachings we don’t really believe.” Just how far are we willing to follow Jesus?

Are we willing to become a bleeding-heart liberal in our love and care for our fellow man, and a hardline conservative in believing what Jesus said?

Or is it more important that we become experts in the “law” of the Bible rather than the law of Love?

There was another “expert” who faced this same dilemma with Jesus…

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:25-27 NIV)

It’s interesting that Jesus had him answer his own question. Why? Because he already knew the answer. He had heard it preached every Sabbath…probably taught it himself; He just wasn’t doing it. He was a “forgetful hearer” (James 1:22-25). And, for us, it’s the only law that matters if you want to follow Christ—loving God and loving others as yourself.

But what happens next is even more interesting!

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
(Luke 10:28-29 NIV)

Ah…there’s the rub! Who is my neighbor?

This is the same question we’ve been asking since Cain killed Abel…in other words, am I my brother’s keeper? And we’ve been trying to wiggle out of it ever since! We will create any doctrine necessary to not follow Jesus here…

29 But he wanted to justify himself

But Jesus doesn’t let him, or us, wiggle out of this one. He masterfully answers the question with a parable about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35). When Jesus finishes the story He asked our legalist…

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37 NIV)

Understand that Jesus might as well have told him to go kiss a leper! Samaritans were the idolizing heretics, the despicable sinners…the problem…the enemy to hate. Yet, in the story, it was this hell-deserving sinner who was actually following Jesus’ teachings, who was loving his neighbor as himself. On the other hand, it was the right-standing religious “Bible-believing” folks who were not.

Strangely, Jesus is sounding a lot like Bill Maher here.

HeresmyheartThis is the problem with following Jesus. We must actually take what He said seriously. It is here where we must turn our judgmental finger back on ourselves and obey Him.

I personally find that the most difficult thing about following Jesus is not in my having all my doctrines neatly packed up in my apologetic certitudes, nor is it in my struggle against personal sins, nor in my attempts to get the world around me to behave the way I think it should behave. It’s not in my preaching to the lost, or faith for miracles, or anything else with which I may occupy my self-absorbed Christian mind.

No, it’s here, precious one. Here, in this crucible of unconditional other-centered Love, where Jesus bids me to come and die. It’s here where He beckons me to follow Him.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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10 Responses to The problem with following Jesus

  1. “in this crucible of unconditional other-centered Love”

  2. Lance says:

    “And I’m not talking about following Jesus legalistically; I’m talking about heart issues.”

    And this is it…heart issues. Our transformation isn’t in our doing but in our being. We know love because we are Love but we want to analyze our way through everything. The good-bad fruit can still be our source of nourishment. When we agree that our hearts should be this way, the way of love, then when it isn’t we seek the divine to change our hearts. It’s OK to admit “I want my vengeance” but to realize that our true self doesn’t want vengeance. The “Spirit of Christ” is ever changing our hearts as He reveals our true self. We are Love and we don’t want vengeance. The problem is we forgot that truth and instead have created a false reality, a false self that thinks vengeance is the answer. It is the spirit of Cain that needs to “die” and let the Spirit of Christ be the light and life of our true self. Or something like that. Love it Mel.

  3. Pingback: Loving your enemies | In My Father's House

  4. Pingback: Relational dysfunction and spirituality | In My Father's House

  5. Pingback: Jesus exegetes God | In My Father's House

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