Yesterday, in many churches around the globe, the Gospel passage of Matthew 4 was read. The passage finished with the words, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”
Jesus’ message of the reigning kingdom of God/Heaven has become an after thought for many in the Church. But it is the message that needs preached in the synagogues of our day. THE message of Jesus is commonly overlooked in exchange for a transactional religion propping up spiritual egos. We would rather be told how bad the world is and how good we are than to hear the actual transformative and healing message of Jesus for the world. We have traded the name of Salvation for an empty pattern of self-worship.
It is shocking to see how the witness of the church has become something far less than the message of Jesus. Eugene Peterson says, “To follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given its character and shape and direction by the one who calls us.” If we aren’t finding the character and shape and direction of Jesus in our lives…perhaps we have followed something else.
It seems the first step of following Jesus is relinquishment of our own ways. Verse 22 says, “Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.”
When the disciples relinquished their nets (provision and positions) and left their father (inheritance and security) to follow Jesus…they trusted Jesus to lead them to a new way of seeing and living both economically and relationally. For Jesus invites us to see and live within the provision, position, inheritance, and security of the Kingdom of God. This is an alternative way of living and organizing our lives, households, communities, and yes, even nations. The Kingdom of God is about economics as much as it is about inner peace. It is about our neighbor as much as it is about the immigrant. The Kingdom of God is as expansive as the universe and as specific as “put down your sword.”
How? How is the Kingdom of God engaged in all things? By calling everyone to ask one single question. What is that question? This. If Jesus were living my life, how would he live it? There other ways to ask the same question – If Love rules in my life, how will Love behave? – If Resurrection acts in my life, what will Resurrection do? But the question is always the same. If I am following Jesus…I am always asking the question, “How would Jesus live in this moment?”
Following Jesus isn’t something we just SAY we do. It is an everyday resistance to our own ways and a picking up of Jesus’ ways. Following Jesus isn’t something that happens one day a week. Following Jesus is a way of life.
What makes a Christian? Following Jesus. It is every moment of our life marked by the ways of Jesus. I love the way Dallas Willard says it, “We can become like Christ by doing one thing – by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself.” That’s it. To be Christian…our lives must reflect the life of Jesus. It’s not a people group. Not an association. Not a membership. Not a voter block. It is offering presence with the despised. Restoring those who are victimized by the powers. Welcoming the stranger. Forgiving our enemy. Loving our neighbor. Gentleness. Kindness.
You get the point.
Jesus is still inviting. Will we follow?
There’s certainly nothing new or extraordinary about these words…but today I had to sit down, shake my head, and listen for the words, “Follow me.”