Following Christ

Here’s a really odd, funny idea. What if we are actually supposed to do that stuff that we’re told to do in the Bible? You know, that actual stuff that’s in the gospels and Acts. The things Jesus did, the apostles did, and a whole host of other, smaller people did as well.

The Gospel of Matthew, and its repeated hammering on the coming now of the kingdom of heaven as the message of Jesus has me thinking. What if this were actually true? What if what Jesus said was happening was really happening? What if God had come among his people again, just like in Eden, just like in that pillar of cloud and fire in the temple...what if? As hard for us to imagine as it is, this is the message of Jesus. This is the message of the New Testament. God has invaded earth. He did it in the person of his son Jesus. And why? To make it possible for you to go to heaven when you die? Well yes. But heaven when you die is only part of the story. The rest of the story is the whole world being transformed until “the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” God intends to bring the world back to Eden. And that’s nice, isn’t it? But what does it mean, and what does it mean for me? It means that all the craziness, all the weirdness, all the sin and evil, and even disease and death, all of it is being ended. God is taking over.

And I have to decide if I want to be a part of it. It won’t be easy and there are a thousand, it seems, reasons for that.

The kingdom of heaven comes in only one way. It comes Jesus’ way. No surprise, right? Okay, piece of cake, huh? Look deeper to see what that means. It doesn’t come through changing laws or through court rulings. It comes through people seeing the sacrifices made and the love shown so that their hearts are changed.

A woman just called. She’s touched. She’s older. She has a disabled daughter she cares for. And because of that, they were prisoners in their home. She’s calling because some of our deacons went to her house and built a ramp. It’s a life changer for her. She told me how she’s been burned before by churches. Money she said. They just wanted money. And then our deacons showed up, spent time and energy and effort and didn’t want a thing. It restored her she said. It gave her a new perspective. It showed her there is something real in this. And that’s how, in a very small way, it works.

Jesus set out on a path he knew would involve massive sacrifices, huge acts of giving, culminating in a cross. He told us that if we wanted to be his, we would have to walk the same path. Sacrifice, giving, crosses. We’ve barely touched the meaning of that. We need to go deeper. And we need to open our eyes and see the people around us and ask just what it means to take up cross and follow Jesus.

A very small part of it is opening our eyes and seeing this woman and her disabled daughter and for Jesus say, “We love you enough to help.”