Saturday, February 26, 2011

When do I stop following Jesus?

This is an excerpt from ‘THE FEAST’ (chapter three, WRESTLING WITH THE REAL JESUS) by Joshua Graves:

I wrestle with whether I’m an admirer of Jesus in that dream crowd or whether I’m truly following his radical teachings. I feel like Robert Jordan, the brother of the influential writer and activist Clarence Jordan. Clarence approached his powerful brother, a lawyer in Georgia, to help provide some protection for Clarence’s demonstration plot, the Koinonia Farm, which was created to be a visible sign that blacks and whites, poor and rich could live in solidarity. A radical project, especially in the early 1950s.

Clarence believed his brother might be able to provide some legal advice or protection to ensure the continuation of the vision that birthed the Koinonia Farm. Here’s one recollection of the conversation. Upon being asked for assistance by Clarence, Robert responded:

“Clarence, I can’t do that. You know my political aspirations. Why, if I represented you, I might lose my job, my house, everything I’ve got.”

“We might lose everything too, Bob.”

“It’s different for you.”

“Why is it different? I remember, it seems to me, that you and I joined the same church the same Sunday, as boys. I expect when we came forward the same preacher asked me about the same question he did you. He asked me, ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ What did you say?”

“I follow Jesus, Clarence, up to a point.”

“Could that point by any chance be—the cross?”

“That’s right. I follow him to the cross, but not on the cross. I’m not getting myself crucified.”

“Then I don’t believe you’re a disciple. You’re an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple of his. I think you ought to go back to the church you belong to, and tell them you’re an admirer not a disciple.”

“Well now, if everyone who felt like I do did that, we wouldn’t have a church, would we?”

“The question is,” Clarence said, “do you have a church?”*

The chief antagonists in this mini-drama were not the conventional bogeymen constructed so often in contemporary religious polemics: the “liberals,” “atheists,” and “homosexuals.” Christians were the ones who physically assaulted, shunned, and imposed economic difficulties on the Koinonia Farm. Baptist. Methodist. Presbyterian. Churches of Christ. It was the “Christians” who prevented the gospel from having its way in the Jim Crow South.

Every day I wrestle with my identity: am I a merely a spectator, or am I truly following? I stand somewhere between these two brothers—at times willing to lay down everything for the kingdom, at other times, doing everything in my power to preserve my comfortable life, career, and positions. I firmly believe that more than understanding Christianity as a “set of beliefs,” ours is a faith that demands to be seen as a “way of life.”

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