Disciple Wanted (Interested Persons Can Begin Immediately)

Some people who believe that Jesus died for their sins think all that is required is to accept Jesus as your personal savior . . . and then life can go on pretty much as it did before.

I believe the opposite: that the heavy lifting begins when one decides to become a disciple.

To illustrate my point, I wrote a want ad for the job of disciple:

Wanted: Highly motivated individual for difficult but rewarding position. Need not necessarily leave current employment (unless one is a war lord, cruel dictator, etc.). Must be available, as needed, on a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year basis.

Once the position is accepted there is no retirement. No material payment for services. Major medical insurance NOT included. No vacation days or holidays.

Co-workers may or may not be cooperative or even friendly. Must be able to tolerate hostility.

Humility required. Ability to forgive a plus. Class, race, sex, age, physical ability, sexual orientation, and religion not a factor.  Interested persons can begin immediately.

It’s Tuesday, Must Be Judgment Day

It’s Tuesday. It must be Judgment Day.

Unlike many Christians today, Jesus didn’t focus on Judgment Day as something to occur in the far-off distant future. He was interested in what we were doing with our lives . . . today.

Being a Christian didn’t mean waiting for the Second Coming. Jesus taught that judgment day is today.

“Now is the judgment of this world.” (John 12:31).

“We are judged at every encounter with our neighbor.” (Matthew 25:40).

So what shall we do? You might start with his simple, clear instruction to treat others as you want to be treated.

In the book of Matthew, it is written that Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” (7:12).

The Golden Rule. Its meaning is so simple. If you need help, don’t you want someone to lend you a hand? And to do it with kindness and generosity? To do it simply because it’s the right thing, not to earn points toward a future far-off judgment day.

Each day is a fresh start . . . another chance for us to lend a hand to someone else who needs a little help.

Just as we would hope others would do for us.

God is a Verb

“God is a verb, not a noun.”
– R. Buckminster Fuller

How Do You Serve Others?

Since Jesus taught we are members of God’s family, we need to look out for one another and be of service to those less fortunate than ourselves.

In the description of the Last Supper found in the book of John, after the meal was finished, Jesus rose to wash the feet of his disciples.

He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:4-5)

When they protested his action, he stated that if they couldn’t understand his desire to serve rather than be served, they didn’t understand his teachings.

Such a simple action. Not a belief in something invisible. Action, as in the concept of a verb.

Whose feet did you wash today? Whose will you wash tomorrow?

God is Not Merely Great, God is Good

Much of the Hebrew Bible focused on the greatness of God – the ability to perform incredible feats.

But Jesus focused his attention not the greatness of God, but on God’s goodness, God’s remarkable ability to love.

According to Jesus, God is generous, welcoming, and kind:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seek finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8).

Simple, clear words about a faith in an essential goodness.

For you . . . does this faith in goodness lead to good deeds? Does the door not just open for your knock when you seek help . . . but do you open your own door (your pocketbook, your heart) when a stranger in need knocks?

All You Need Is Love

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.
It has been found difficult, and left untried.
– G. K. Chesterton

The teaching of Jesus are demanding, so much so that most people refuse to follow them. What would real disciples of Jesus look like? The outside package wouldn’t matter in any way. The person’s shape, age, skin color, or gender wouldn’t matter.

What is inside . . . now, that would matter. And how that person behaved would matter most of all.

These people would not merely tolerate hearing those who disagree, but would welcome the chance to better understand another’s view of the world because of their compassion for others.

We have just enough religion to make us hate,
but not enough to make us love one another.
– Jonathan Swift

If the teachings of Jesus had to be summarized in a single word, it would have to be love. We are directed to love God, the outcasts, and yes, even our enemy.

Consider that instruction . . . to love our neighbor as ourselves. It must be an important concept in the teachings of Jesus since it appears in the New Testament repeatedly. (The book of Matthew even mentions it in two places.)

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  (Mark 12:31)

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 19:19)

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scriptures, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  (James 2:8)

Do you sense a pattern there?

If so . . .what do you do about it? How do you put that into practice?

“Our Father” Means All Are Part of the Family

We Are All One People

When Jesus taught his followers to pray, he began, “Our father. . .”

Using the term “father” in reference to God does more than characterize our relationship with God, it also describes our relationship with one another. We are are all siblings – brothers and sisters. In the book of John it is written:

If any one says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (John 4:20).

Unless one believes by using the term “brother” Jesus was referring literally to one’s biological brother, then Jesus was teaching us that we are all part of God’s family.

There Are No People Unworthy Of Our Loving Attention!

Divinity is always shared. It is never exclusive.
– from the book Love Without Conditions, by Paul Ferrini, 1994

Jesus was born into a Jewish society that taught that non-Jews were to be avoided. But Jesus refused to abide by such limitations; he sought to accept everyone regardless of religion, ethnic origin, gender, or physical condition. Against tradition he accepted the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Samaritan man. He accepted gentiles, prostitutes, adulterers, tax collectors, thieves, and lepers.

One of his early disciples, Matthew, had been a tax collector. This meant in Jewish culture he had two strikes against him: he was a Gentile, and he was a traitor. Tax collectors worked for the oppressive Roman government and therefore were hated by those whose lands the Romans were occupying.

Jesus accepted not only those who worked for the occupiers, but also the occupiers. The most outstanding example can be found in the book of Luke where Jesus declares a Roman centurion (officer) had more faith than anyone he had ever met – including his own disciples (7:9). This was the equivalent of a Frenchman praising the faith of a German officer during the Nazi occupation of Paris.

So we should think not only of loving the God whom we cannot see, but also the brother or sister, the neighbor and the newcomer, the person like us and the one unlike us, that we can.

Focus on Your Behavior, not on the Behavior of Others!

What is a Christian?

CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.

One who follows the teachings of Christ so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
– The Devil’s Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce

At least, that’s what the cynic Bierce wrote.

Let’s recall, in the Book of Matthew, a crowd brought before Jesus a woman accused of adultery . . . an act which, according to Old Testament law, condemned her to a slow painful death by stoning.

Rather than condoning the attack, Jesus said to the mob, “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone” (John 8:7).

Good words to remember . . . especially in this highly charged autumn of 2008 as we see the daily stonings across the blogosphere and everywhere else we turn. When we hear of those who have done something wrong, let’s look inside first and ask how we can improve our own actions.

And not stoop to pick up a sharp stone, however small.