He’s a tough act to follow

By Layton Friesen

Isn’t it surprising how much Christianity can happen without Jesus being that involved?

Jesus has always been a tough person to follow. The church has never mastered the art of imitating the whole Jesus. Its easy to say “Jesus” and then change the subject to something more manageable. Why does Jesus make himself so hard to follow?

Some find that his way of life is too lofty. Who can truly abandon family, possessions, safety and future the way Jesus seems to call us to do? Jesus can sure make 21st-century Christians feel guilty.

Some find him far beneath their standards. His use of violent stories involving torture, prison, and grinding teeth in outer darkness seem barbaric. What kind of person would feel at home in that world?

Some think he’s only relevant to our private, personal lives. His was a spiritual, inner message that shouldn’t influence our politics or economics. Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world—so who would ever try to model everyday human community after his teaching?

Some think that, while his ethic is fine, his relationship to the Father was for him alone. We can pick out the bits about not judging, worrying, killing, but leave out the nights of prayer, the stuff about “I only speak what the Father has shown me.” You shouldn’t have to be “spiritual” to follow Jesus, should you?

Some can’t believe Christ’s way of living is supposed to be for all people. It’s clearly given for spiritual elites and people like nuns who have left their families, given away their possessions, and spend all night in prayer. The rest of us have to get on with life.

Some can’t accept his teachings on nonviolence. Some can’t accept his teaching on sexuality. Some can’t accept his teaching on worry or money. Some won’t seek his wonders, exorcisms and healing. Some won’t follow the way he related to women. Some think his readiness to turn the other cheek and be crucified is a sign of a sad, self-loathing mental illness. Some think Paul corrected Jesus and gave us grace instead of Christ’s obsession with morality.

Why do you find Jesus hard to follow?

Many criticize the church today for failing at following Jesus, but I would suggest a different posture. We should be amazed that any group anywhere has even begun to live out the matchless life of this Jewish builder. It’s easy for me to pick my favourite part of Jesus, the part I find possible, and then criticize you for only getting your part right. Let’s admit that no institution or person has ever been handed as daunting a mission as the church was given when Jesus said, “Follow me.”

Layton Friesen

We don’t seem to be able to follow Jesus, and yet we are compelled to come back to the sheer glory of his simple majesty. We can’t seem to focus on him for more than a second, and yet we cannot look away.

If you have glimpsed a flicker of the beauty of Jesus even once somewhere in your life, you are of all people most blessed. If that was truly Jesus Christ you saw, that one flicker will be enough to light your path to the kingdom of heaven.

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