Head First: I never even got to the question.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I never even got to the question.

Tony Campolo posed the question, "If there were no heaven and no hell, would you still follow Jesus?"

I started to answer, but stopped. I had to admit that I'm not even sure I follow Jesus now. I've been a Christian for many years. I believe that Jesus is who He says He is. I invited Him into my heart (over a hundred times...and counting! Thank you, A/G youth camp!). I always cooked at the men's fellowship breakfast. Spoke in tongues (but was never "slain in the Spirit"--I'm no wacko). I do my best to be obscenely generous. I've experienced immediate healing when I called together the elders of my church. I pray (for other people, not just myself). I don't know too many orphans, but I help widows and reach out to strangers whenever I can. I go to third-world countries and help build meeting places for the Church to gather. And this little light of mine? I'm gonna...well, you know. Is that following?

I'm trying to reconcile the activities of my life to the idea of following. If you say you're following me, that means if I go into the supermarket, then sometime shortly thereafter, you go into the supermarket, right? If you're following me, and I walk out a window, then what? You don't have to walk out the window, but then, you can't say you follow me, can you?

I'm reading Kierkegaard, who seems to believe that the supreme purpose of the gospel is to wreck my life. Shane Claiborne's not helping, either.

The idea of following Jesus has somehow been blurred into these other Christian activities. I'm not saying these things have no merit. I just question whether they necessarily represent an accurate definition of following. If I say I'm following Jesus, then it stands to reason that I am going somewhere that Jesus has been, or that I am doing something Jesus did. Yeah, we did the gay coffee thing, and I've sat in the gutter and befriended homeless guys in the city. But I still stop for a cheesesteak on the way out of town and come home to my sleep-number bed (Jesus didn't have a bad back like I do, you see).

Is there a balance (as we all so desperately hope)? Or is that a cop out? Would you still follow? Do you follow?


Alli said...

If you say you're following me, that means if I go into the supermarket, then sometime shortly thereafter, you go into the supermarket, right?

I like the thought in this post, but this is a bit too literal for my taste. After all, you could go into the supermarket to buy organic produce, whole grains, and lean meat. I could then buy spaghettios, doritos, M&Ms, and Red Bull. We might be following the same physical path, but our intent would differ widely.

IMO, the most important part of following Jesus is what you do, not necessarily where you do it. Yes, you should give. Yes, you should reach out to the less priviledged and hurt. But sometimes the hurt people are right in front of you -- I've met people who are quite "churched" but who desperately need a little Jesus-love. Anyhoo, I think it's about the commandment to love rather than the physical paths. That's all.

dufflehead said...

in a relating post, there's a follow up to the questions to my smart friend dan over on my blog

dorsey said...

Thanks, alli. I didn't really intend the analogy to be taken so literally. I wasn't talking about physical paths, else I would have to hop the next flight to Jerusalem and begin lining up my crucifixion. :-)

You're absolutely correct. Following Jesus is what you do, not where you do it. My point is that we (well, I) don't really behave like Jesus did all that much. A lot of people "do" just enough so they can point to a moment in time and say "Yep, I follow Jesus, see?" Jesus didn't give one day a month to the poor or a couple hours a week to the lepers. Jesus was Jesus all the time. I'm only Jesus when I feel like it.

dorsey said...

Pete, your smart friend, dan, is pretty damned smart.

Quinn said...

As for Kierkegaard, it depends on what you mean by "wreck your life". The New Testament tells you, amongst others, to give away your worldly possessions and wealth to follow Jesus (Luke 18). Can you do it?

Zeke said...

I think following Jesus is a mystery, and most times I don't bother to try very hard to solve it.

jeff said...

my 2-cents...

Following Jesus is following the teachings/leadings of Jesus.

And they're all summed up in fully and completely loving God and loving neighbors as much as you love yourself.

Is following Jesus about what we "do"? Or is following Jesus about the motivation or the heart behind what we do? (that whole, 'man looks on the outward but God looks on the heart'...)

With that being said, Jesus said to Peter and the other fishermen, "Follow me and I will mke you fishers of men"? So does that mean that 'following Jesus' has something to do with man-fishing?

JimmyBob said...

Jeff, I think you nailed it.

Following Christ will always lead toward telling others about His love. So, I think that when we decide to follow him it will begin with preparation and continue all through our journey. The preparation is so that we can be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us.

Kc said...

My symapthy. I am presently of the mind that it's not so much the particular "things" we do as it is that we do the "things" God wants us to do. IOW there's no list that fits all. I think our cross might look different from one day to the next but it's still ours to carry. I am confident He will give you what you need when you need it. Great post BTW. ;-)

ninjanun said...

"Preach all the time. If necessary, use words."--St. Francis of Assisi

So many Christians make the mistake of assuming anyone who isn't a Christian must not have heard the Gospel story. In reality, it's usually that they haven't seen true Christ-likeness in action. That's where the rubber really meets the road. Words are empty and powerless if there is not a life of faith, love, hope, etc. backing them up through action. There's a good discussion going on at slacktivist's site, where he deconstructs the horrible writing and theology behind the "Left Behind" series, and the mentality so many fundagelicals have about witnessing. I highly recommend reading the whole LB critique, though. It's a hoot!

ninjanun said...

hmm, for some reason that link didn't work.

Here it is again.

Dorse, I think you'd get a kick out of the whole series.

dorsey said...

"Is following Jesus about what we 'do'? Or is following Jesus about the motivation or the heart behind what we do? (that whole, 'man looks on the outward but God looks on the heart'...)"

That's not really my issue. Of course the motivation is primary. But if I "do," say, every other month for a couple hours, with even the most correct attitude, but live the rest of my time for myself, can I say I live a Christ-following life?

I'm not looking for the magic formula, either (i.e. "x" number of hours/week = spiritual). I think it IS different for everyone. For the rich young ruler, it was to sell it all, but for Zaccheus, it was selling half and paying people back (there's no indication that he stopped being a tax collector, but I'm guessing he was a different kind of tax collector after that). For James and Andrew, it was walking away from their vocation, but Paul continued to work making tents, even as he followed.

I'm just trying to figure out which it is for me. Unfortunately, I've never been very good with balance.

ninjanun said...

Whatever you do, do it as working for the Lord.

Okay, obviously that excludes things that God calls sin (even tho' Martin Luther may disagree and say if we're going to sin, to sin boldly), but I try to remind myself of that when I'm doing things I HAVE to do anyway (like work at my job as a housecleaner). Sure, it's beneficial for me (to get money) but my attitude is a lot better when I realize that I should be doing everything I can with excellence, to the best of my ability, just like I would if I was cleaning God's house (cause you know God's gonna notice when you cut corners).

I especially try to keep that in mind when I'm scrubbing around the toilet, or doing some other task that I'm tempted to not do as meticulously. I know that's not exactly what you're getting at with your "balance" dilemna, Dorse, but the Jews have always had this concept of "wholeheartedness" with whatever tasks they do, which I've always liked the idea of. It also seems to play into the idea of "let your yes by yes and your no be no." You shouldn't have to make additional "promises and swears" to let someone know you really mean it this time. It should be apparent by your wholehearted undertaking of whatever endeavor. Jesus makes it clear he doesn't like it when we do things half-assed. ;)

So that's my schpiel, and why I'm over here scrubbin' toilets for Jesus. Most of us can't always be handing out free coffee cards, feeding the homeless, or sharing Jesus' love in such obvious displays, but we can bear witness to His love for all life through living ours with the same amount of love and gusto--no matter what mundane task we happen to be doing.

jeff said...

Of course the motivation is primary. But if I "do," say, every other month for a couple hours, with even the most correct attitude, but live the rest of my time for myself, can I say I live a Christ-following life?

It would seem that motivation not only determines the heart behind what we do, but also when we do it.

If we're truly 'motivated' as Christ was, it will be our lifestyle.

I mean, I've been motivated at times to workout and eat right. But I'm not right now (crap!). So I canot say I'm living life like a bodybuilder, even though I've had moments that seemed kinda close...

Maybe motivation (because for us, it can be fleeting) is a bad word. Could we say it's about the heart behind not just what we do, but how we live??

Sable Chicken said...

the question,
"If there were no heaven and no hell, would you still follow Jesus?"

I almost didn't even get the question ;)

Than I thought.. if I didn't believe that there was a heaven and a hell...I would NOT follow Jesus. I would do what ever I wanted to do. I would decide to be my own moral teacher and have no problem figuring out what was right or wrong.

John 14:2
"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. "

If I didn't believe in heaven or hell I would NOT follow a guy named Jesus because he would be a liar in my eyes. I don't like liars.
He is not a liar. He is God and is promising a Heaven to anyone that believes and repents.

I have always had a sense of God, I am glad of that. It has taken a long time for me to get around to knowing who Jesus is. I've never talked in tongues (may have typed in tongues ;) Ha Ha. Have had sort of a wacked out couple of weeks once in my life (dark sided people freaked me out) ..but I'm not a nut. Teehe
I have only asked Jesus into my heart once.....I almost asked him into my heart again...but thought that I might be insulting God...like it didn't take the first time....so I just repented instead. I'm learning to not hide my light and I'm learning to follow Jesus by listening to what he said. I think I missed that repenting step in the whole asking Jesus into my heart when I did it, but I was young and I was a good kid so I didn't even know to repent. It is amazing that after not following Jesus for 30 years, just how far removed I felt from God. Yet in repenting and crying out to Him, he let me know that He has never walked away from me. Then I realized that it was me that walked a way from Him, back when I started to believe that there mayby no heaven or hell or even God. But we call His name we can know that He has never left our side for a minute.

The atheist blogs I have read on the internet, complain that it is a selfish way to live ones life. To live for the ultimate reward...Heaven. I think it seems more selfish to take heaven away from someone or to keep it from someone.

I like your blog....hope I didn't sound to much like a "Richard" for useing scripture....but if you can't let your light shine a little around stupid church people...well then where else can you?

dufflehead said...

Christ wasn't all about heaven and hell as he said that those too would pass away (therefore, one day this question will be true)

Kris said...

Dorsey....man you just bless me so much.

Last week while I was reading the word, I made the same observations about Zach.. and the rich ruler and also the man who had a legion of demons. That man wanted to 'follow' Jesus and Jesus told him no, to stay there and tell others what God had done for him. I have the same struggle you have about what it is that God wants of my life and what I should be doing.

I only have one answer to this 'right now'. I just figure that we all have certain gifts that Christ gave us and my gifts are lined up with the desires of my heart that God has given me. In other words its the Christ in me that is desiring to help someone at certain times or give to something at certain times or to stop sinning a certain sin because the Holy Spirit (Christ in me) is giving me a desire to be more Holy.

Can it be wrong to just love Jesus and let Him put the desires He wants in us to accomplish His purpose even if we really don't know or understand His exact purpose? I've read book after book on "steps to holiness" "finding God's purpose" "10 ways to live for Christ" and on and on. All this only leaves me looking for the next book or next tape on ways or steps, its futile.

I'm gonna try to rest in grace and not even wonder, "if there were no heaven and no hell, would I still follow Jesus", much less stress out attempting to answer it.

I love you brother, and yes I will take a free coffee card.....but don't get no funny ideas.... it's only because I like coffee.:)~

jeff said...

the pete said:Christ wasn't all about heaven and hell as he said that those too would pass away (therefore, one day this question will be true)

This is an excellent point! When Christ sets up Hs kingdom on the earth, what reason will we have to serve Him if the only basis for our faith is hell avoidance or attaining heaven?

Could it be out of love? Maybe even faith or hope, since they plan on sticking around forever?

Well said!!

dufflehead said...

gracias, el jefe

Girl con Queso said...

Hmmm. What if we were all created to follow or imitate him differently. Specifically and differently. In different ways, at different volumes and paces. Just to keep it interesting. If so, I bet he gets a right kick out of seeing how that all plays out.

JimmyBob said...

He is GOD and LORD. That is motivation enough to follow Him and serve Him forever, no matter what the next life contains.

Wouldn't it be pointless to do anything else?

dufflehead said...

if i were to respond to your statement (as opposed to your question) it would go somethin like "so?" then i would just disagree with the second statement, but maybe it's just a personality thing.

i don't think someone's title or position demands my servitude. in fact, i'm more of the inversely proportional motivation to ranking type (the higher up the ladder one is, the less likely i am to give them the time of day)

Anonymous said...

What is our purpose, church?
"you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 2:5)
"I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Rom. 12:1)
"Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (Heb. 13:15)
"And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Heb. 13:16; Phil 4:18)
Any other purpose?
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, (why?) that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light." (1 Pet. 2:9)
"Now all these things are from God who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor. 5:18-21)
"And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain - for He says, 'At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you'; behold, now is 'the acceptable time', behold now is 'the day of salvation' - giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God, by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report, regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown and yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. (2 Cor. 6:1-10) (He doesn't leave out any circumstance in which we may find ourselves, does he?)
To sum up: Our purpose is to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through our Lord Jesus Christ by presenting our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, by continually offering praise and thanks to Him while continuing to do good and sharing. We are to proclaim His excellencies through the ministry of reconciliation which He has given us, entreating others to be reconciled to Him through Christ, while giving no offense in anything but commending ourselves as servants of God, as ambassadors for Christ.
I look at it as not what we are doing but as who we are…we are ambassadors for Christ. The question then becomes – for me – is what I am doing telling the truth about God? Does it proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of the darkness into the marvelous light? I can do all those good things without ever proclaiming His excellencies, without ever commending myself as a servant of God, without enduring, without joy.


dufflehead said...

patting ourselves on the back for making converts doesn't sound like a good idea to me. Christ wasn't about making converts.

Kitty Cheng said...

I suppose Jesus is about making disciples who follow Him (or can we safely assume that disciples follow Him)?

JimmyBob said...

Dufflehead, I guess I don't compare people with God. I mean, if the reality is that God IS and He created everything for His pleasure, including us, then what could possibly keep us from serving Him? I mean, we sometimes do selfish things and want to go our own way, but ultimately we all understand that not serving God is foolishness. Because, after we die we will see Him face to face.

To me, God and LORD are more than titles.

You said, "Christ wasn't about making converts." Was that another way to say he was about making disciples instead? I can agree with that. But, please explain further.

dufflehead said...

we all understand that not serving God is foolishness i'm guessing you're speaking of the Christian "I" not the universal "I"?

i was speaking from more of a everybody perspective or, at least, i was trying to.

to me, those are titles. but again, that's a personality/perspective thing.

"not about converts" if Christ wanted converts, he would have gone somewhere other than Jerusalem. as it was, he showed up to the Jewsish people; his people. he came to destablish the powers that had been created by his people and those they were subjecting themselves to and not by the sword but by love.

disciples(from dictionary.com - ne who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another.) ? i think he was looking for people to help bring down said powers and encourage others to join in the "fight". so in a way, yes.

dufflehead said...

i should have followed these sage words: "don't be hasty"

that should be the Christian/universal "we" (not "I") and the word is disestablish, not destablish, and the definition starts with the word one, not ne.

ok, carrying on.

JimmyBob said...

We, Oui! I meant "we" as in "we Christians."

In regards to the converts thing, I think that Jesus does want disciples, but it follows logically that one must convert first.

Even though he came to his own first, he also did not neglect those outside of Judaism. In fact, Paul was sent out to the gentiles by Christ (after resurrection).

All this is obvious though, so I may just be misunderstanding your point about Jesus only coming to his people. That's cool!

dufflehead said...

actually, i think converstion is an afterthought or consequence, if you will. i think there are many that can, and do, participate in the divine even follow the example of Christ without knowing about Christ or wanting to be a Christian. i think that the "accidental disciple" is more likely the case due to the example Chritians have been of Christianity.