Originally posted Nov. 15, 2012, at the altar ego. Republished with permission of the author.
“Come and see.”
So said Jesus to two disciples of John the baptizer, who were curious where he was going (John 1:39). Later, a guy named Philip says the same thing to his hesitant friend Nathaniel, who was wondering aloud (i.e., he blurts out, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth??!?”) what on God’s green earth Jesus’ movement was about. I say movement, not ministry, because I’m struck by the fact that Jesus began a powerful, intriguing and downright unbelievable momentum that captured people who, naturally, got caught up in it. They couldn’t help themselves. Come and see.
In the words of Shane Claiborne, they were encountering a Christianity (or, in the words of the first Jesus-followers, The Way) that was gaining traction by fascination instead of force.
And as fascinating as it was, Jesus reminded the people gathered around that this movement wasn’t for everyone. It might be a difficult thing to hear in a time of a nice, pious, sentimental Christianity that we often see on display across our country. (Or, as a gentle reminder to us from a church leader in the Holy Land, as told to Claiborne, “Americans didn’t invent Christianity; they just domesticated it.”)
It might be hard to hear in a culture of “getting my kid done (i.e., baptized)” for the sake of easing grandparents’ minds
It might be hard to hear in a culture of membership in churches being secured by participating in both Holy Communion and offering gifts to God a whopping one time per year
It might be hard to hear in a culture of Sunday mornings being a time to hear a divine five-step program to being happy instead of a literal life-altering gospel of new life in the midst of business-as-usual
Yet, here is Jesus, inviting absolutely everyone to follow him, while at the same time reminding them that it wasn’t going to be easy — reminding them that his movement, paradoxically, wasn’t for everyone.
There’s a fantastic gin that’s distilled and bottled by the company Hendrick’s in Scotland. Their tagline is most unusual among for-profit entities: “It is not for everyone.”
I’m no marketing major, but I’d imagine this is a rather ingenious strategy — in a way, it’s provoking people to size themselves up for the challenge of being a person who can handle Hendrick’s “most unusual” (their words) gin.
I’m not meaning to compare gin to Jesus (although that would’ve been a great title to this post), but I do think his movement is “most unusual,” and it is “not for everyone.”
It’s most unusual in that it calls for a radical shift in how we understand our us-versus-them foreign policy, since we actively pray to a God of ALL nations, not just America and its allies.
It’s not for everyone in that it asks for radical discipleship, in the words of German Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer. To follow Jesus isn’t like joining a club that gets together and has communion every once in a while.
So, what do we do with this enigmatic journey called Christianity? I think we come back to Jesus’ words: “Come and see.” Do we have the courage to go?
Find a link to Jason Chesnut’s the altar ego at Lutheran Blogs.