By all appearances, you could call me a conservative Christian. I believe in the authority of Scripture and because of that, I try to align my personal beliefs about moral, social, and political issues (i.e. marriage and abortion) with the Bible. But sometimes I wonder if the Jesus I read about in the Bible isn’t the Jesus I think I’m following in my heart. Please let me explain.
I don’t know about you, but when I look at the apparent erosion of Christian values in the public and political square, sometimes I just want Jesus to swoop in and wake everyone up!
And if I’m being honest, there are times when I don’t want Him to do this because I’m concerned about people, but because life would just be more comfortable if there weren’t so much disunity and uproar in our nation. Things would be much easier if I could just turn on the news without hearing about the latest protest at a college university or the latest twitter bomb from our president.
Perhaps you know the feeling I experience often: you turn on the news only to hear about the latest group that doesn’t align with your personal values marching down the street, raising their signs, pushing forward legislation, and all we can think is, “Dear Jesus, will these people ever get a clue? How could they believe that?! Jesus, you can come back any time now.” Even if I don’t say it out loud, these are the thoughts I think quite often.
But the truth is: I really just want Jesus do follow me—my agenda, my plans, and my desires. Behind the unspoken thoughts of animosity toward those I disagree with is really a subtle infection of apathy that keeps me from loving these people through prayer, conversation, and understanding.
Thought: What if we were more specific when we think about following Jesus?
This came to my attention recently when I was reading a book by the profound British scholar, N.T. Wright. Wright says that for many modern Christians, when we think about God changing the world, what we really mean is that “we want is someone to implement the policies we already embrace, just as Jesus contemporaries did.” (Simply Jesus, 5)
In other words, we don’t really want Jesus to do His thing through us; we want to do our thing through Him. I’m not for a moment saying that we shouldn’t want moral, social, or political change to take place in our nation, but can we be honest enough to ask ourselves: how much of our motives for change are rooted in a genuine love for people instead of a love of comfort and preference? How often are our prayers for change motivated by disdain for people rather than a genuine compassion for them to know the Jesus we know?
Thought: Is there someone you can take to coffee this week who disagrees w/ you?
If you resonate with this, don’t be too hard on yourself. This fact has always been true of Jesus’ followers. Throughout the Gospels we read of Jesus’ disciples asking Him when He is going to set up His kingdom and how they could rule alongside them. Yet, Jesus consistently reminds them that He’s not trying to set up a political kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom of servants who love their enemies and pray for those who oppose them. To quote Jesus directly:
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. But it is not so among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you will be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” — Mark 10:42–45
While I believe in the validity and blessing of conservative Christian values, how often does my life reflect a mentality of serving others who don’t believe as I do? While Christians rightly condemn certain practices and values as evil and destructive to humanity, how often do we love, serve, and pray for the people who hold these values?
I would venture to say that Jesus isn’t going to bend to our political or social agendas any more than He did for His disciples. The question I find myself asking is: will I bend to His agenda? Instead of trying to get Him to follow me, will I truly follow Him by being a humble servant of people who disagree with me—even passionately?
Thankfully, this sacrifice is not without reward. When we submit our lives to the Kingship of Jesus, we are embracing the true and better vision for our lives He has in store. But this is something we can only realize through the sacrificial life of faith and obedience to Him. As Wright says regarding the first followers of Jesus:
“They were looking for a building to construct the home they thought they wanted, but he was the architect, coming with a new plan that would give them everything they needed, but within quite a new framework. They were looking for a singer to sing the song they had been humming for a long time, but he was the composer, bringing them a new song to which the old songs they knew would form, at best, the background music. He was the king, all right, but he had come to redefine kingship itself around his own work, his own mission, his own fate.” (ibid).
Perhaps this leaves you frustrated, or perhaps you find yourself re-motivated to get with His program. Either way, I think it is imperative that Christians embrace the fact that Jesus is King and because of that, He is going to change the world on His terms, with His agenda, and in His timing.
While we all want a Savior to take us to heaven, the real King Jesus is interested in changing our lives and making us His servant-missionaries long before heaven ever comes. Perhaps the frustration we often direct outwardly toward those who disagree with us should be re-directed inwardly toward ourselves when we disagree with Jesus.
Jesus makes it clear:
You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have?” — Matthew 5:43–46
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. — Matthew 16:24
Is this the Jesus you want?