Thursday, August 25, 2011

Don't like change? Don't follow Christ.

This week marked the beginning of the school year for a majority of the children in San Angelo. Some have had a better start than others. Most of the kids I talked had some measure of nervousness about the new school year. Almost all the parents I spoke with did. One of the basic truths of life is that people generally prefer what they know over what they don’t know. This is as true for adults as it is for our children. This tendency holds even when what we know isn’t that good. Time and time again, we’ll prefer the misery we know over an alternative that is uncertain.

This common human tendency to prefer the known over the unknown works against our relationship with Jesus, whose first and most frequent word to us is, “Follow me.” Follow me in serving others. Follow me in praying for your enemies. Follow me into a deeper relationship with God. Follow me to the cross.

Instinctively, I think we know that a relationship with Christ means change, which is why we church people prefer religion over relationship (and nobody loves predictability at church more than preachers!). Religion helps us keep God at arm’s length. We’re able to consistently check off the boxes of what we’re supposed to believe and do (and not do) in such a way that we never hear Christ’s voice to step out into the unknown.

Religion kept Jonah away from Ninevah and the possibility of an enemy’s repentance. Religion had the potential of keeping Peter away from Cornelius’ house and a stranger’s salvation. Religion threatened to keep Paul fighting against a new work of God, all because his religion had convinced him that God didn’t do anything new. Only a word from God (and a giant fish) convinced these guys otherwise.

I’ve become convinced that if God hasn’t recently challenged our preconceived notions about life, other people, morality, even God's will, then we might not actually know God, not the God revealed to us in that rabble-rouser Jesus Christ. No, if our god is constantly confirming our suspicions about other people and our fears about this life and our vision of how the world should work, there’s a good chance the god we worship is only an idol created in our image. That god might be safe and predictable, but he’s not a god that saves.

Only Jesus saves, and he is constantly calling us to leave what we know so that we might follow him into the unknown, unpredictable, but ultimately incomparable kingdom of God.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known – 1 Corinthians 13:12.

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