On my Facebook there is a category in the profile under “Philosophy” called “Religious Views.” For some time now I simply put “Christian”. Recently I switched that to “Follower of Jesus.” For some reasons I have a hard time considering myself a Christian. Well, in reality I am. I am one in and through Jesus with all who name the name of Jesus, and I do hold to the orthodox Christian faith. So I must explain.
I dislike red letter Bibles. Looks like at this point I’m stuck with one, until I decide to buy a more expensive edition, as I replace my translation of choice that no longer will be published, the TNIV, with the new edition of the NIV. The kind of Bible I want to purchase now is available only in red letter editions. Letters are colored red which are of the words determined to have been spoken by Jesus. They are popular. Many of us, though, think we don’t need red letters to remind us just how important those words are. Nor is such in the original. But that’s okay.
The words of Jesus are important. And that is in large part why I want to say I want to be a follower of Jesus, as opposed to Christian. Christian has come to mean holding to faith in a context other than the kingdom of God come, and revealed in Jesus. Often it is largely in an individualistic context in which one’s basic aim in life seems hardly altered. Of course it takes time for us to grow up in Jesus, and indeed such growth involves a process over a lifetime. But we too often have taken an American or worldly mindset, and sought to baptize that with our faith. Rather than having our faith baptize us, so to speak, into a completely new life. Of course water baptism does that, and faith, as we read in Romans 6, through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
It’s an entirely different world than our world, than our conventions, even crossing our sensibilities at times, dare I say many times? Jesus calls us to love God with our entire being and doing, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. In him is fulfilled the call to fast in order to love, to do justice, as we walk humbly with God. And this in the biblical framework is done together with others. Which is why I simply don’t consider any reading worth my time which does not hold community in Jesus important in our call in God to mission. I’m not referring to snippets, but to works as a whole.
Jesus calls us to follow him in forgiving any brother or sister who repents after wronging us. To not do any duty of faith if any sister or brother has something against us, but first go and be reconciled to them, and then do what else is required. To love our neighbor in caring, sacrificial ways. To love even our enemies, praying for them, doing good to them, and refusing to strike back at them, after they strike us. We are to take no less than the way of the cross, a cross-shaped life of love, in our following of Jesus. Together in and for the world.
I find plenty of Christianity dull and uninteresting, I mean our take and expression of the faith. I didn’t say all, but plenty. I’m afraid this may be more a reflection on me, than on Christianity; I want to be open to that! Oh yes, I can sadly be content with much less than following Jesus. Doing this and that, which up to a point is good. But I know in my bones and in my heart that there is more. Not only more, but that that more gets to the heart of what Jesus is all about. And so what we are to be about in Jesus.
A sacramental understanding of baptism and of the Lord’s Table is important, but not enough. We need all the understanding given in scripture, and much of that is directive even in imperatives. Through God’s grace in Jesus, we’re to live in God’s love, in obedience to our Lord. Fulfilling our call as God’s people in this world in no less than God’s kingdom present and at work in Jesus. Of which we are a part.
This is why I would prefer in today’s terms to be understood, not so much as a Christian, but as a follower of Jesus. With all others in his Body. One for all, and all for one. For the world. In and through Jesus.