Oct 22, 2008

twenty centuries of jealousy

There are days that I find it difficult to follow Jesus.

Not because I don't want to, but because I'm jealous of what it doesn't mean for me.

(Trust me, that will all make sense in a moment)

Back in the first century, a physical person named Jesus Christ walked around various areas in an area we sum up as Israel. He encountered people doing things... common everyday things like fishing, cooking, commanding, working with money, hanging out under a tree, campaigning for something or someone, and so on. And as this Jesus crossed paths with these people, there was a common phrase He said to them...

"Follow Me."

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:19-20)
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. (Matthew 9:9)
Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Mark 10:21)
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me." (John 1:43)
This is what I am jealous of... the ability for people to lay their eyes on Jesus Christ in a physical sense, and then go on this adventure of following Him wherever He leads.

I'm not saying that I haven't done this in a 21st Century Way, but the trouble I run into is I'm not able to follow Jesus around physically but instead spiritually, relationally, and missionally...

and I get distracted and confused a lot.

When Jesus walked the earth, people could tell if they were following Him because they could look over and see Christ around the campfire cracking a joke or making funny noises with His lips to cause kids to giggle. The people in Jesus' era on earth saw this wild leader bend down and serve the individual or the crowd, flip over the concepts of religion through challenge, and slow down to give someone in despair tangible Hope... real Hope.

Even after He left the earth and passed the baton to His followers, the idea of following Jesus was clear. There was momentum in place and miracles were happening to help crowds of people see the validity to the stories they were hearing. The Church approached everything in a way that seemed to initially run against the grain of culture, only soon people saw that it truly did make sense... and thousands came to the Lord in a short amount of time.
Flash forward twenty centuries later, and we are so intellectual that was have a hard time knowing what to think. We confuse self-interests with God-interests, thinking that one is the other... and there are many days that we're so busy being frustrated with the Lord for not answering our questions when we fail to hear the Answer He is offering to a Question we haven't yet learned to ask.

And yet... the call is there - "Follow Me."

Consider how folks in the first century would have been jealous of the ability we have to have the very Words of God written down and collected for all to read. To know that we are simply a reach over to a coffee table away from reading powerful Truths that can speak into our lives from every direction we know of and so many we don't. To not have to wait for a physical Jesus to walk into their town on tour, but to instead know that because there has been death-and-resurrection that God is available everywhere, for access has been made possible... the curtain that separated us was torn.

Twenty centuries of jealousy often boils down the different sides of a fence, with the grass seeming greener on the side you're not on.

It must have been amazing to physically follow Jesus wherever He led... without a doubt, I would love that experience. To watch His eyes wander or to see how He cocks His head just before He says, "Can you pass the bread?" Or for a brief second to hear Christ tell a joke - and to see how long He would wait before delivering a punchline that would make everyone crack up.
Obviously, I'd want to see a miracle beyond what we call science - something that just defies explanation and changes a life forever physically. But mostly the everyday stuff - I think there is more miracle in those Jesus moments than there is in the fireworks of a healing.

But how much more amazing it is that wherever you are there is access to Him in Spirit and in Truth? To see miracles of changed lives and households and careers and education and free time and issues and beliefs and everything else. It's sort of amazing to consider how today it is possible to follow Jesus, and it sort of seems like Jesus follows you, too.

Don't be confused by that, though. Christianity is not merely about God being for you, your agenda for life, and all the things you have on the calendar this week. It's not that God isn't for you and those things shouldn't be there (perhaps some shouldn't), but more that the motive we have in many of those things needs to alteration.

And so I challenge you to consider the powerful shift of surrendering your dreams.

Not because they don't matter, but because there is a way of looking at them that matters more. In fact, many times that I've given up on my dreams God said, "Thanks for following Me! You will be blessed by this choice." and then handed them right back to me. Other times, He just said "Thanks for following Me! You will be blessed by this choice."

I wonder if much of our problem in feeling like we're not connecting with Jesus some days is that we're asking Him to bless our plans. Perhaps we should be asking Him to show us what He has especially blessed for us to take part in. One contributes to the world's hurt and to my misery, and the other heals it.

One involves God following you on your terms, and the other involves you following Jesus, even if it gets confusing some times.

Hang in there, for if you follow Jesus you have a perfect Him to hang on to spiritually, relationally, and missionally ... and His imperfect Church (on its best days) will have its arm around you physically.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)

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