My impression is that many of us, including a lot of folks who don’t identify as Christians, would say that we like Jesus’ teachings. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. What’s not to like? Yet from the first time I read through the gospels, I have sensed that Jesus offers something far more radical than is often assumed. He doesn’t simply dispense a set of sterile dos and don’ts; instead, he confronts me with a life of reckless abandon and risky love.
In spite of the many religious traditions that have been built around him, Jesus invites me to far more than mere intellectual assent to doctrines or the practice of religious rituals. He calls me to himself: to be in relationship to him, to follow him, to come and die with him. Jesus expects me to release my ambitions and goals, my sense of safety and comfort, and every last vestige of control. He makes no bones about it: to follow him is to suffer like he has. That’s what being his friend means!
I have to confess, I’m still not there yet. I do a pretty good job as an admirer of Jesus. I think his teachings are great, and they challenge me to live differently. But actually following him all the way? That’s a work in progress.
The thought of surrendering everything to follow Jesus is daunting. I’m reminded of how the early disciples themselves, when they heard Jesus’ teaching on wealth, exclaimed, “then who can be saved?” My thoughts exactly! There’s no way I have the strength to follow him on my own. Yet, in spite of my weakness, I trust that Jesus has the power to call me anyway. His living presence gives me hope that I can change, learning to walk with him.
What’s your experience? Are you an admirer of Jesus? Are there ways that you are living into his radical calling for your life? What gets in the way of throwing yourself completely into the dangerous path of love that he offers?