Keys to a Balanced Life of Faith
On a scale of 10 we rated his sermon as a ten, no doubt about it. It had all the right points we approved of and he said all the things we know we agree with. We felt a comforting combination of guilt and relief about ourselves and how we live. The guilt comes from knowing we are a tad short of the mark and the relief comes from being told that God accepts us when we come to him as we are. All in all it was a good work out. The closing song brought us to the customary altar call when strangers and people who didn’t have the grip on life that we have should walk to the front of the church and get themselves on the right path. We all knew who they were and we prayed as we waited that God would convict them of their great need before it was too late.
The best part about being established in the church was that we became part of the “pact of understanding.” We used to struggle with this before we caught on to the balanced answer. It goes like this: We know that we are called as special people to live as disciples who follow Jesus; we recognize that it is important to vocalize our earnest desire to live in conformity with the high standards Christ set for us; we know that it is impossible to actually do so and that encouraging each other is all about reassurance. We know that the preacher’s job is to say things about the high standards and that other people should listen to him. We also know the preacher is a long way from meeting that mark himself so we follow his example in the confidence that if he can’t hit it, God won’t be too worried about us. But we never, ever say that – it’s the unspoken part of the pact. We never say it to each other, we never ask the preacher how to live up to the things he is saying and consider such questioning to be rude and offensive. Such questioning would show that we haven’t grasped the pact and lead to our exclusion of the inner circle of the informed.
You may be resisting the idea that there is such a pact so let’s check out the underlying dilemma the pact solves.
If we are real about how we live we know that we struggle to apply most of the teaching of Jesus in our lives. We hear the words and we know them well but we also know that it is impossible to actually do them. (We can never, ever say that out loud.)
We get approval for saying that we wish to follow Jesus but our fellow Christians give us little support when it comes to actually doing what we say. If we were to announce that we have decided to quit sinning and from now on we will only and perfectly follow Jesus, the initial encouragement and nods of approval soon turn into warnings about not becoming too fanatical and extreme in our faith.
If instead we said that we realize that the demands of Christ are really impossible and we have decided that we have no intention of obeying them in any way at all, we would get howls of protest and correction from our Christian peers.
We are in the no-win situation of being discouraged from being too radical on the one hand and yet we are not allowed to opt out on the other. We are condemned to a life in limbo, caught in the tension between living for God and living for ourselves. We are not able to do either entirely and our support group acts to resist change, prevent transformation and maintain the state of limbo. But it can never, ever say that.
So, do we plan to follow Jesus? Or do we plan to not follow Jesus?
The resolution we reach is to say we plan to follow Jesus but to never put that plan into concerted action. The radical sayings of Jesus are for other people to hear and do; they are not for us since we have already been saved: He accepts us as we are!
Have you ever tried thanking your preacher for his wonderful message and then asking him to state in a few words why he said what he said and what he expects you to do about it? Be ready for one of two things to happen if you try this: a) you will be given a long reiteration of the main points (but no specific action plan ideas), or b) you will be quickly dismissed and probably labelled as a “problem member” from that point on.
Asking, “How can I do the things you have talked about?” can hardly be answered with, “Oh, I don’t think you should bother trying!” but it is seldom met with, “Here’s what you can do. . . “ either. It’s part of the pact and your question shows you haven’t quite got the idea yet. “We will pray for you!”
The advantage Jesus’ original disciples had was that they didn’t know about the pact and they didn’t yet have a system to maintain. It made life easier for them since they merely had to follow Jesus, watch and learn from what he did. They had no status to maintain, no image to keep and no “inoculated” community to look on and criticize them for being hypocrites. They could see first hand exactly what Jesus was doing and they could ask him what he expected from them. Oh sure, they gave up some stuff to be with him but we would have done that too – who wouldn’t?
If they had lived in our day, they too would struggle with working out how far to go in this following Jesus thing and they too would have to reach the conclusion that it really is too hard to do. They would have realized that Jesus’ words were intended to be inspirational but they just aren’t practical. They too would have needed to find ways to hold up his high standard while they lived to a different one.
Makes me wonder, why did Jesus give us such impossible ideas? If his way is so easy, how come I find it so hard? What would he think about our pact?
Hint: Jesus’ prayer in John 17 might give us some clues, it’s worth re-reading.
. . .
- Unexpected Words (hermeneuts.wordpress.com)
- What Is Your Understanding of Biblical Discipleship? (kevinnunez.org)
- The Cost of Discipleship (footsoldiers4christ.wordpress.com)
Posted on May 25, 2012, in Active faith, Relationships and tagged Christian community, Christianity, church and reality, discipleship, faith that counts, following Jesus, impossible teaching of Jesus, preaching truth, Religion and Spirituality, teachings of Jesus. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.