There was a good discussion this last Thursday at church about what it means to talk to someone about your faith. I’m not great at internalizing group discussions, particularly if there are more than three other people besides myself. That said, I think the end point was to care less about getting your message across and more about where the person you are talking to is coming from. Long story to follow, but the short is that I agree. You can stop now if you like. The fun part now is whether the long story fits the short story…
The one thing I thought afterwards was how things have changed. When I was a kid (8 or so, not the 28 year old kid I am now), I was told I needed to accept Jesus into my heart and be baptized to go to heaven (and get the bread and juice snacks that I was actually interested in at the time) It seems that this lingo hasn’t changed much since my childhood. I haven’t done a conclusive survey, so there may be a grain of salt around here somewhere for you to borrow.
Then there is the book of Mark dated to nearly 2000 years ago. I don’t have it memorized, but I can usually tell you if a particular story was in Mark or not, at the very least, and can reference stories from the book quite easily. The thing is, Jesus never called anyone to accept him into their heart. In fact, I don’t think that comes up in any of the gospels (if it does, my money is on John). The call is not to accept, but to follow. And not just that, but to take up your cross (or the instrument of death of your choice) and follow. The point isn’t about where Jesus is in relation to you but where you are in relation to him.
And that’s my problem. Accept and believe, by all means. But that isn’t the call to action of Christianity. Neither is baptism, at least in Mark (though Jesus did it, so it probably isn’t a bad idea and it’s just really awesome in its own right). The call to action is to follow a man the establishment considered a liability on a road that leads not to prosperity as we understand it, but to death. Potentially horribly painful and lonely death.
The good news is that death doesn’t matter anymore (not to mention that most of us in America will likely never face death for our faith). It’s lost its sting, as some hymns expertly put it. There’s nothing to fear anymore and nothing to lose from doing the right things that society may not agree with at best or punish/kill you for at worst.
That didn’t really come up, that I recall.
I accept lots of things. I accept that I can’t afford everything I want. I accept that I can’t be with all of my friends all of the time. I accept that I’m nearing my bed time right now. But Jesus isn’t like any of those things. And my acceptance is just that, an acknowledgement that I can’t do anything to change that situation, so I decide to live with it as it is.
But following, that’s a whole different ballgame. To follow, you must leave behind. There is a path to walk, marked by the leader. There is help from a leader. There is movement and ebb and flow of speed along the path. There is time to stop and consider the path behind. And there is acceptance here, too. That you can’t always change where the leader is going (but you can try). That you can’t tell exactly where you are going.
How did we get from following Jesus to accepting Jesus? Seems like a step backwards.