Following Jesus Christ 2

It has been over a month since my last post about following Jesus. I mentioned then that I was writing short pieces for a virtual class reunion which I would then use in this blog, because following Jesus is one way to experience the presence of God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matt. 5:9).

You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evil doer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also (Matt. 5:38-39).

You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven (Matt. 5:43-45a).

In some ways, the call to practice non-violence and love of enemy is the most difficult of Jesus’ teachings. This is true for Christians all over the world—though there are wonderful exceptions in denominations like Quakers and Mennonites.

America was birthed in violence and war. It is part of our national DNA. We patriotically support any war or military conflict that America engages in. We promote a gun culture that seems to support a level of violence that the early Church would never accept.

Now I know that some of you may be a bit angry at this point, but I hope that you will persevere and read the rest. Some wars can be justified and the defense of our family and the weak can be justified. Nevertheless, if we want to follow Jesus, we must take his teachings seriously and not simply ignore that which doesn’t fit our world view.

Violence should always be the last resort. When violence is finally the only answer, we must strive to use the least amount of violence possible to promote genuine peace. We are called to love our enemies, not hate them. Killing may be necessary, but we will never, if we follow Jesus, rejoice in the death of our ‘enemies’. Following Jesus is rarely easy or popular. But I have found it one great way to experience the presence of God.

A Firm Foundation Pathway

In the Gospel of John chapter 5, Jesus has a confrontation with some Jews who were upset that he had healed a man on the Sabbath Day. According to Jewish tradition, the Sabbath was the day, once a week, that God had set aside for the people of Israel to rest. This was part of the Law of Moses.

In so many words, Jesus accused his accusers of not believing in the venerated Moses. They would have scoffed at those words. They were obeying the Law of the Sabbath and Jesus was not. The did ‘believe’ in Moses. However, Jesus pointed out that Moses had prophesied concerning Jesus. Since those particular Jews did not believe in Jesus, then they were also not believing in Moses.

I hope you are still with me! I have belabored this point that they believed and did not believe in Moses in order to affirm that this pattern seems true of many American Christians today. They believe in Jesus, but they don’t believe in him at the same time.

In the sense of affirming that Jesus is Lord and Savior, America is one of the more Christian nations in the world. But how many of this great multitude believe in Jesus to the point of taking seriously his calls to non-violence in Matthew 5:38-48 and  to a simplified life-style in Matthew 6:19-34? He closes this great sermon affirming that only those who act on what he has said will stand on a firm foundation.

Roads that will last must be built on solid foundations. One of the more effective pathways to God is to read the Gospels concerning Jesus over and over again on a regular basis. To do so will make it much harder to believe in Jesus and simultaneously to not believe in Jesus.