Archives For Follower of Jesus

Here is a quote by Philip Gulley in his book entitled The Evolution of Faith – How God is creating a better Christianity that will be used for this discussion.

To be sure, if one believes Christianity is primarily about worshipping Jesus, a faith that incorporates other religious traditions will be considered heretical. But if one believes Christianity is primarily about following the example of Jesus, then it is easy to imagine a faith informed by men and women of goodwill, though of diverse traditions. If the future of the Christian faith is creedalism and believing the right things about Jesus, then other traditions will be viewed as the enemy at worst, or contaminants at best. It will be a return to the Age of Belief, and in that sense a spiritual regression. But if the future of the Christian faith is about taking the best from each tradition, while helping people negotiate their spiritual journeys with grace and dignity, then the church might well inspire a world made new. 

I admittedly am a big fan of Philip Gulley. Mr. Gulley is a Quaker and a Hoosier so that probably influences me to some degree.  If you haven’t figured it out by now I tend to gravitate to those authors who believe that the words and teachings of Jesus should be central to all forms of Christianity. Being a follower of Jesus Christ is in my mind much more important than reciting man-made creeds about him.

If we think that following the example of Jesus is primary then it just seems logical that we will celebrate other religious and even secular organizations that do likewise. If we put our creeds on the back burner then there is no reason to look at all others as the enemy of Christianity. We can celebrate what we have in common and as Mr. Gulley says here we could then inspire the world made new.

  • Following the examples and teachings of Jesus would naturally mean that we  would migrate from primarily occupying pews on Sunday to becoming involved in our communities seven days a week. That would certainly get the world’s attention.
  • Following Jesus would mean that we would have compassion for the “least of these” and fight any attempts to unravel our country’s safety nets.
  • Following Jesus would mean that we celebrate life in all aspects and be against death in all it forms. That includes: abortion, capital punishment, war, and allowing other to die from preventable causes.
  • Following Jesus would mean that we would become an immense force for good in the world.  It would mean that we would take back from our government much of the role of care-givers.  If that were to happen I am very confident that Christianity would take it place as a force for good in the world. It would mean a world made new.

Jesus said he is the way to heaven and therefore I believe that. To me that means that to get there you are to follow his examples and teachings. It does not mean that heaven only belongs to those who say the “right” creeds but instead it belongs to those who at least try to do what he commanded of us. I will not take the power away from Jesus to accept our Muslim, Hindi, Jewish, and other friends into heaven and I think in the end he will do just that.

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I am going to spend several posts discussing some of the insightful words from a book entitled Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus  by Robin R. Meyers. This book gave me some pretty profound re-enforcement of my belief that the words of Jesus have been losing focus in the church. Here are the words for today.

Strangely, we have come to a moment in human history when the message of the Sermon on the Mount could indeed save us, but it can no longer be heard above the din of dueling doctrines. Consider this: there is not a single word in that sermon about what to believe, only words about what to do. It is a behavioral manifesto, not a propositional one. Yet three centuries later, when the Nicene Creed became the official oath of Christendom, there was not a single word in it about what to do, only words about what to believe!

It is not secret to those who have visited here before that I am no admirer of King Constantine and the damage he did to the Christian church. It seems “the road not taken” is constantly in my thoughts and the words above are no exception.  I wonder what would be the state of Christianity if Constantine had not hijacked it to try to shore up his crumbling empire. I wonder if we would be more focused on the behavioral manifesto of the Sermon on the Mount instead of the propositional one he had written fifteen centuries ago?

Until I read this book the stark contrasts between Jesus’ word at the Mount and the Nicene Creed were not as apparent as they are now.  The emergent church movement, of which Robin Meyers is a member, has a goal to try to rescue the words of Jesus from the church. As I mentioned in a previous post many churches today have tried to domesticate Jesus to one degree or another. They want to make being a Christian as easy as possible and Jesus’ words often get in the way of that goal. They just seem to ignore the words they don’t particularly like.

Many versions of Christianity today say that any of the words of the Bible are just as important as any others.  They say that the stories, myths, parables and such are just as important as Jesus’ messages to us on how to live a Godly life. They say the words of Jesus just aren’t any more important than the words of for instance Paul. Until we can recapture the importance of the words of Jesus above all others in the Bible Jesus will never take front and center in many lives.

One of the common complaints about today’s churches are that they are no longer relative to today’s world. People say that are very interested in the words of Jesus but the church is a total turn-off.   We need to take back Jesus from those who try to domesticate him and let his radical words give us back the true meaning of being followers of Jesus Christ.

I started out my Spiritual journey as a Catholic because that is what my parents were. I came to find out that they were only tepid Catholic as they really didn’t go to church themselves very often but more often just dropped us off and then went home.  Upon entering high school I went about twenty years moving between an inactive Christian and an agnostic verging on atheist. Then as a result of getting married I joined a Protestant congregation.  When I was going to a Catholic grade school I remember hearing a lot of things about Jesus and not much about the letters of St. Paul or any of the other “epistles”. But when I joined the Lutheran church Paul strangely seemed to be front and center on their theology.

Martin Luther’s epiphany was based on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians about being saved by grace and not works so I guess I should not have been surprised to see Paul not Jesus to be the center of that congregation’s beliefs. It was not until I started seriously studying the words of Jesus that I came to fully realize that Jesus must be the total focus.

When I started out blogging here more than four years ago I promptly got a comment from someone rather high up in the Lutheran church. He chastised me saying all the words in the Bible are from God so none are more important than any others. This statement amazed me because it said that Jesus’ words were no more important than any others in the Bible. Of course I have come, after years of serious study, to totally renounce that man-made belief.

When I came across the words below in a book entitled “A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith” by Brian McLaren who is a Protestant clergy and author, they verified what I already knew:

Like a lot of Protestants, for many years I “knew” what the gospel was. I “knew” that the gospel was the message of “justification by grace through faith,” distorted or forgotten by those pesky Catholics, but rediscovered by our hero Martin Luther through a reading of our even greater hero Paul, especially his magnum opus, the Letter to the Romans. If Catholics were called “Roman Catholics” because of their headquarters in Rome, we could have been called “Romans Protestants,” because Paul’s Roman letter served as our theological headquarters……

He then asked me how I would define the gospel, and I answered as any good Romans Protestant would, quoting Romans. He followed up with this simple but annoying rhetorical question: “You’re quoting Paul. Shouldn’t you let Jesus define the gospel?” When I gave him a quizzical look, he asked, “What was the gospel according to Jesus?” A little humiliated, I mumbled something akin to “You tell me,” and he replied, “For Jesus, the gospel was very clear: The kingdom of God is at hand. That’s the gospel according to Jesus. Right?” I again mumbled something, maybe “I guess so.” Seeing my lack of conviction, he added, “Shouldn’t you read Paul in light of Jesus, instead of reading Jesus in light of Paul?”

Today I firmly believe that to be a follower of Jesus Christ we most put our almost total focus on his words. At best we should use the other authors as reinforcement of Jesus not a replacement for him as I see in many congregations today.