Monday, March 29, 2010

Following Christ

We had a reading yesterday in church of an excerpt from Kierkegaard on the topic of being a follower of Christ and not merely an admirer. This is a subject that frequently weighs on my mind. Quite often I suspect that most of Christianity has contented itself with a pale, bourgeois idea of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We'll do (or at least say we'll do) whatever can reasonably be expected to fit into a standard 21st century American life, but certainly no more. We don't want to be religious fanatics, after all. But weren't Jesus and his disciples religious fanatics?

The danger, I think, is that when most of us want to be more religious, we think in terms of being more strictly moral. I'd be the first to agree that moral fanaticism is an awful thing. But that's not what I see when I look at the life of Jesus.

What does it mean to be a follower of Christ? How do I do that in my life? Do I live the way Jesus would live if he were an upper-middle class American software engineer with a wife and two daughters? Or is that already a contradiction?

Paul says somewhere that we're to live out the life we had when we were called to be Christians, so I think that means the wife and kids can stay (lucky for me!) and probably the job I have too. But from there it's so easy to slide all the pieces of my life back into place from my spending habits to what I do with my free time. What if Jesus were an upper-middle class American software engineer with a wife and two daughters who wasn't terribly financially responsible and spent all his free time riding a bicycle or watching TV?

Part of my problem is ADD. I'm immobilized by big tasks. I don't know where to start. This weekend I had to pack all the junk in my garage. I began by standing out there for a while feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where to start. But this is something I've been working on recently, so eventually it clicked -- pick something up and put it in a box.

And I guess that's what I need to do with following Christ. I'm not likely to strip naked and change my entire life in an instant the way St. Francis did. For me, I think, it's going to require listening for Jesus' call and doing one thing. I'm not satisfied with where that gets me, but at least it gets me somewhere.

1 comment:

Rod said...

Andy, you offer some good thoughts here.
I admire Kierkegaard a great deal and I think he has a lot to teach us. I think that we can follow Luther (or Paul) here, too, though, and remember that to be a follower of Christ means, first and most importantly, to believe in him and in what he did FOR US. That might entail (sometimes) having to try to act like him is some dramatic, glorious, or painful way, but, thankfully, most of the time, it probably does boil down to loading one box at a time, taking care of our family, and doing our jobs. I think that Jesus would tell us to be satisfied with our wages (or maybe look for a better job if we aren't), but not that we can't be software engineers (or whatever) if we want to be his disciples.

Somewhere in his book on Dread/Anxiety, Kierkegaard suggests that the funny thing about the rich young man Jesus tells to sell everything if he wants to follow him is, that if the rich young man had been willing to take that absurd step, he would've learned that...actually, he would not be required to do it. But as long as he wasn't willing, he would be required. This kind of thing can only make sense in the sense that God gives us everything we have, and that these gifts from God require responsibilities on our end....

My point is that I think that you are quite right to do one thing at a time, and NOT to try to be like Francis. The point of being a follower of Christ is, I think, to trust him to justify us -- to forgive our sins, to make our feeble efforts good, indeed to justify our very existence -- since we cannot justify ourselves, and only mess everything up when we try be Christ for Christ instead of letting Christ be Christ for us. Luther does tell us to be like "little Christs" to our neighbors, but I think that in general that probably entails things like cleaning out the garage more than imitating St. Francis.
Sin boldly, but believe more boldly still!