At a yard sale in our neighborhood a few weeks ago!
“How do I remain a Christian?” is probably asked by progressives more than “How do I become a Christian?”
But I believe the answer is the same for both, and—fair warning—my answer to both questions may not follow the usual or traditional pattern, because I’m less interested in the “Christ” part than the “Jesus” part, less concerned with the theologizing of the Jesus story than the following of the Jesus Way.
“How do I follow Jesus?” would be the way I would put the question.
To follow Jesus is to welcome him into our life, and allow his teachings, practice, and various incarnations/manifestations/expressions to transform us.
In the spiritual life, I don’t believe “teachings” are the same as “laws.” Though obedience is considered a spiritual practice, the word comes from the concept of “listening,” that is, attentiveness, mindfulness, alertness.
Attending to the teachings of Jesus anticipates studying them, but it also requires contemplation and watchfulness in applying them. We may learn the teachings, but contemplating them may transform us, better equipped to watch for ways to apply them in our lives, in our families, and in our communities, whether a community defined by faith or identity or geography. “Watch and pray,” Jesus urged.
In the spiritual life, I don’t believe “practice makes perfect.” Jesus’ counsel in Matthew, “Be perfect as God in heaven is perfect” may be translated “be mature as God in heaven is mature,” and in Luke, Jesus advises us to “be compassionate as God in heaven is compassionate.”
Growth and maturity and compassion all come from grace, not mere practice, though spiritual practices may open one to God’s grace and the gifts of the Spirit. To feel a breeze, it’s best to open a window, but the Spirit blows where she will.
In the Christian spiritual life, I don’t believe Jesus is found simply in a youngish first century Palestinian Jewish male anymore, but in all who try to follow his spiritual path and in all who may be blessed by his spiritual path—yes, the church, but also beyond the church, no matter the gender, color, ability, sexual orientation, condition, age, nationality, religious preference (or not).
We may “hear” Jesus across the table and across the world, we may “see” Jesus in friends and foes, we may “touch” Jesus in lovemaking and caretaking and caregiving.
Is that all there is to it?
Isn’t that enough?
I hope to see some of you in Atlanta on Tuesday, May 26, the “Community Day” of the 2015 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability, for which I will serve on an afternoon plenary panel. Or consider attending the entire weeklong event. Some of you will remember I wrote two posts about helping keynote the 2014 Winter Institute.
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Copyright © 2015 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.