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Friday, August 25, 2006
Challenge to my thinking
A friend posed this question (or variation thereof) recently to me. He quoted someone else, saying that the emergent movement would live or die based on what it decided it meant to follow Jesus.

I've grown up in churches that lived out a message of social service, but distrust of the scriptural Jesus. In churches and a college, where defining and demarquating (sp?) the limits of scriptural meaning and interpretation meant everything. Personally, I'm transitioning to a definition where living with my choices in the way I believe Jesus would has more meaning than whether I know the verse reference to back up my decisions. There's obviously more to this question than that, but I'd love to hear my fellow sojourners thoughts.

How do we follow our Jesus? Where have you been, where are you going?

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posted by Charlotte Wyncoop at 10:22 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 8/26/2006 03:01:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    My husband commented to me recently about this. Based on something he read (I really wish I could cite the author, becuase the concept really does not belong to him or me--I think it might be the guy who wrote How Not to Speak of God, which, incidentally, he raved about!) that it would be good to consider whether or not we would follow Jesus even if we knew there would be no return on our investment. In evangelical world, you follow Jesus because he is the "ticket" in. He gets us through the pearly gates. How different we all might look if we truly "threw down our nets" and followed him as the disciples did. They had no idea what they were getting into. I don't recall reading that Jesus hollered out to those guys from the shore and said something like, "Hey, if you follow me, I'll get you into heaven!" I wonder how many "christians" would fill our pews this Sunday if they were told that showing up wouldn't guarantee anything at all.

  • At 8/26/2006 09:40:00 AM, Blogger From the Margins

    Charlotte ... I think one of the points of the emergent 'movement' is that the discussion leaves room to decide that question with wider parameters than the traditional way of thinking, e.g. "We all must think alike." So, the point is that the 'movement' won't be answering that question specifically and then insisting people on following "the emergent party line." (Well, ideally that's the goal.) So, if that's what your friend is looking to come from the movement, e.g. an answer to the question, I don't think that's the point. I see it as a movement to open the discussion of the question(s) and that's what it's all about ... continued, open discussion. And, in this discussion, we will all get to hear the diversity of answers to the question of what "Jesus followers look like!"

    Syliva ... love the post! I'd like to offer another flavor in the same line of questioning.

    I wonder how many 'christians' would fill the pews this Sunday if they were told that in the end God's mercy would triumph over judgement and everyone would receive God's Grace of Home? How many of us would still desire to be pursuing a life that would bring the love and the grace of His Kingdom Now, welcoming all to hear the Good News, if there wasn't any 'winning competition' for the end prize that included others losing! Would we bear the label Christian for the shear JOY of sharing the free, available new life in Him, through faith in His death and resurrection?

    I have posed this question in seminary classes, "How upset would you be IF (I just said IF) in the end you found out that everyone received God's grace of heaven?" OH MY ... this created class CHAOS! "upset" is mild! (ME ME ME ... I've done it RIGHT! ME deserves it because I've said all the right words, crossed the right T's and dotted all the I's. ME,ME,ME ... no ticket for THEM! Wouldn't be FAIR ... I've done all this RIGHT!)

    WE WANT TO BE RIGHT? WE WANT THE TICKET ... to hell with the others who didn't get it RIGHT? How goofy is this?? What does it say about our hearts that are somehow okay with evil coming to anyone ... especially evil for eternity? Really. Maybe I'm the goofy one here for seeing this as messed up!

    For me, this is a good heart check Q: ... How angry at God would I be if He decides His Grace will triumph over judgement for everyone? (Theoretical Q's are good for my soul.) All the more reason to celebrate! I'm a Jesus follower all the more devoutly just pondering how BIG, BIG, BIG God's Grace and the Power of the Cross might actually be! WOW!

  • At 8/26/2006 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Kate

    Sylvia, Pete Rollins wrote How (Not) To Speak Of God. He definitely poses the question you repeated and many other greats ones in his book. I'm not answering the question on the post, but I thought you would appreciate knowing who to credit. ;)

  • At 8/26/2006 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Kate

    Sylvia, Pete Rollins wrote How (Not) To Speak Of God. He definitely poses the question you repeated and many other greats ones in his book. I'm not answering the question on the post, but I thought you would appreciate knowing who to credit. ;)

  • At 8/26/2006 10:44:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Sylvia great post... I've been wanting to read How Not to Speak of God, and it just moved up on my wish list...

    Sherri - I know a lot of people would be appaled if God's grace extends to all. Just look at the response to Spencer Burke's new book - A Heritics Guide to Eternity. People who are just reading the book are being called heretics and we've been told that to even consider the thought that all might be saved it unacceptable, outside the bounds of right religion.

  • At 8/27/2006 12:35:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    How do we follow our Jesus?

    One way I am trying, is to take a position of humbleness and a soft heart. The more I read through the Gospels, the Jesus I "knew" before, doesn't seem to be the Jesus I am "feeling" now. I try to respect that one's following of Jesus may not look like mine.
    We did a "Seekers Way" faith journey at church recently (went through the book "The Seeker's Way" by Dave Fleming, one of our pastors). Dave mentioned that we can't just read the Gospels and "chart" out how Jesus would respond to specific situations. (Joked some about the WWJD "campaign") Jesus responded very uniquely to situations and sometimes in ways we still might not get. That spoke volumes to me. It really made me see that maybe there isn't a WWJD answer to things. There are so many variables that are a part of our walk with Christ. The only thing I see as a constant is Love and Grace. Beyond those I just don't know if there are easy answers to "how we follow Jesus". Jesus told his followers "to Follow" and most of the time there was no road map, they just went. Maybe we just follow and do our best to be receptive of His leading.

  • At 8/27/2006 01:47:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Michele - I like what you said about Jesus responding uniquly to situations. Its obvious when you look at it closely, but its really scary to some people. Its way easier to have a set rule that can be applied to every situation, but reality is a lot messier than that. What is sinful (or just innappropiate) in one situation may be the most loving or Christ serving in another. It makes things more relative and subjective, but gives Christ more power to truly rule in our lives

  • At 8/27/2006 10:37:00 PM, Blogger Sue Densmore

    Hello, all -

    I am new to this blog, and I must say I am greatly enjoying it so far. It makes me think.

    I like some of what you all are saying about following Jesus, and it looking different for each person. I agree - each person is unique, thus each life is unique. That is part of the brilliance of God's idea about entering into relationship with us, and allowing us to be part of showing His love to the world.

    I had a couple of thoughts as I was reading this post and the associated comments. Realizing you all don't know me from a hole in the wall, you can take it with however much salt you want...

    I wonder if we should watch out for making the faith too individualized. I mean, is that not part of the mistake made by modern evangelicals - that it's all "Jesus and me?" We are part of a community. That is part of the plan, in my humble opinion.

    Also, taking the individual path thing further, asw in "everyone's walk will look different" can lead to a relativistic faith if we don't hold on to some essential truths that are true no matter what. Like murder is wrong all the time, right? But what if someone thinks, in the style of the post, that "Jesus would respond by shooting this person if he were me in this situation." Obviously this is a logical extreme drawn from the post, but this is what knowing the Bible guards against. And trying to understand the Bible was not part of the statement about us all "responding in different ways" thing.

    As far as the disciples "throwing down their nets," and whether we would if we found out that everyone would get grace in the end, I have the following reminder: They thought they found the long awaited Messiah, and that He was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. So the original disciples even thought there was something in it for them - or at least for their nation.

    As far as whether people would still follow, or show up at church, if they found out that in the end God's grace really would save everyone. I wonder if this maybe just is the wrong question. Why do we go to church? To me it seems that the Sunday gathering is for covenant renewal and corporate worship. People who see it as part of the obligation to get into heaven are laboring under a works salvation mentality aren't they?

    Anyhow, I hope I said what I was thinking in the right way. Looks like it reading back, but you never know if what you type is what others will read, if you catch my drift.

  • At 8/28/2006 12:43:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    I know that there is a real fear that if we don't have a set of do's and don'ts that somehow we will get all get off track and end up as religious fanatics who can justify anything.

    Funny thing about love, though. Doesn't it seem to have a built-in system of right and wrong? I know that people who are not in their right mind can think they are doing something "loving" when they are actually doing something wrong or criminal--case in point, the woman who drowned her children really believed that she was saving them from hell.

    However, healthy and well-adjusted people seem to have a sense about whether or not something is truly loving and therefore right and good. Could it be that we simply know this because we are created in God's image? Is it because his love is stamped into the core of our being and we've just figured out various and assorted ways to ignore it and just do what we want(i.e., what we call sin)?

    I think it would be really hard to actually slide down the slippery slope if a person was truly seeking God and trying to live the way Jesus did. He gave us a pretty well-defined list, but it is a short list and one that is so simple children understand it. Love God and love each other.

    Our adult minds can't seem to wrap around those two things as being enough. We want a more complicated system. I think someone brought up the idea that we may even want to compete in that system--the disciples had a little competition going on too.

    But, I wonder, do we need more than those two essentials? Could we spend our whole lives concentrating on loving God and loving others and then let God show us the rest? Is God big enough that we could trust that everything else would be taken care of?

    If love for one another is an essential, then the issue of individuality ceases to exist and real community can emerge.

    As for the disciples really understanding who Jesus was at the moment they dropped their nets, understanding that he was the promised Messiah? I'm not so sure it was such a no-brainer to them. It's a lot easier to come to that conclusion on this side of the story. I think Simeon got it--maybe. But, that's just my take on it--I could be wrong.

  • At 8/28/2006 01:07:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    Sue, I get what you say about truth's but I still lean with Sylvia. Jesus never discussed truths or laid out charts of guidelines. If the "truths" were so high up, why not make it obvious. Weren't the "religious" of the day indirectly reaching for the same kinds of ideas. Jesus corrects them over and over, that they are "missing it". Why don't we ever question why "love" would be the highest command?
    I also agree with Sylvia, that we have an innate sense of truth (if your of healthy mind), like do not murder. What I have a problem with is when groups stretch futher and further. Most people would agree we are to not murder, but in my experience, there were a lot of "biblical truths" thrown around. Then when I began encountering other denominations, diversity, etc. within the "body of Christ" I found many differing "truths". So I am not so sure that "essential truths" (beyond say, the 10 commandments)can be reached, isn't that why we have so many diverse denominations and faith communities?

  • At 8/28/2006 11:08:00 AM, Blogger Sue Densmore

    I guess maybe some carification of what I meant by essential truths might be in order. I do not mean a specific set of denominational distinctives. By using that term, "essential truths," I only meant things like the fact that God is our creator (notice I advocate no method of creation with that, nor do I want to start a debate about origins), that Jesus is God incarnate as Son, died to save us, rose again, etc - those things that are essential to being of the Christian Faith as defined by, say, the apostle's creed. Also, I would say an understanding of the Bible as God's inspired (notice I did not say dictated) revelation of His inspired activity and intervention in human history.

    Absent something that basic, any discussion is moot because we are floating in the breeze of relativism with no anchoring force.

    There is plenty of evidence in the gospels to suggest that the disciples thought they had found Messiah. In fact, isn't that exactly what Andrew said to get his brother to follow Jesus? It is doubtful, as Sylvia suggests, that they had a full understanding of that whole thing. In fact, we know they did not understand it all. I only meant to suggest that there would have to have been something fairly compelling like that for them to leave everything to follow Jesus.

  • At 8/28/2006 11:52:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    In your basic truths, I would completely agree. I myself and maybe some of the others are dealing with personal experiences where "truths" got out of control and people within our communities and Christianity had a hard time leaving "truths" that basic. For instance "Bible Inspiration", in the circles I have been in ends up a debate of what "Inspiration" means. Debate also occurs when we discuss Jesus dying for "us". Who fits in the "us"? I do feel that there are many out there that "conciously" affirm "truths", but have had more than there share of run-ins with Christian communities that couldn't agree on truths. I for one am beginning to see that it's not as easy as it seems, and I am a little reserved in making lists now.

  • At 9/04/2006 09:57:00 AM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    Wow gals!!! Great posts!

    I hadn't been able to check back for a couple of days (getting ready for a craft fair - my first!) and I am totally blow away by the great discussion...

    When I asked the question, I wasn't trying to generate a big list of "do's" and "don't" because I tend to think life is too complicated for that.

    I have to admit, that while I am socially well adjusted (I think!), if some psycho was in my house and threatened my kids, I'm sure I'd worry about the fact I shouldn't kill him, but I don't know that it would stop me.

    What I was hoping to generate was great discussion about what following Jesus can look like. A sharing of ideas and underlying principles. What great ideas!

    My friend's comment had struck me because I had just listened to an audio tape of Sheldon's In His Steps which is an old Christian classic. It had some amazing ideas about what it could look like to take the WWJD idea and apply it personally in our lives without the modern hype. I'd recommend it highly, but with the warning that it has class distinctions and stereotyping that many of us do not agree with today.

    With regard to the elitism that pervades some Christian groups today, to me it seems to be a logical extension of the elitism that pervaded 1st century Judaism. Instead of "we are God's chosen people" it's become "we are Jesus's saved people." To me, the saddest thing is that Jesus kept saying that he "came to seek and save that which is lost." By removing ourselves from the lost, we lose the connections that allow us to be Christ's redeeming(!read love, not power in the use of that word!) influence.

    God's pushing me to follow Jesus better by: being true to what He created me to be (how hard was it for a bastard carpenter to walk the road of the Christ?), seeing people's insides - not the outsides, and resting in the power of love - not the love of power (yes, I have control issues :)

    Ummm, yeah.


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