What does it mean to follow Christ?
And how do we live “Christianly” in our world?
These are important questions to ask if we desire to live authentic Christian lives. It’s easy for one to get plugged into the subculture of American Evangelicalism. There’s something for everyone - youth ministry, singles group, marrieds group, young adults, senior adults, men’s ministry, etc…. But isn’t following Christ something more than just connecting relationally with like-minded people or peers?
One of the most influential books I read early in Christian walk was A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. There is no quick fix or easy formula for Christian discipleship; becoming a disciple of Christ is a lifelong commitment of living with Christ as King rather than living in our own kingdom only to flirt with Christ-centered commitments and occasionally experiencing Christian renewal.
The following is based on a segment from Peterson’s first chapter entitled, Discipleship. I shared it the other week on my blog; but I took some liberty and added a few things for our discussion at this week’s ONE Gathering. Here it is:
We assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently. Our attention spans have been conditioned by thirty-second commercials, blog postings, 150 character-long tweets, YouTube clips, text massages, etc...
Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate. Many claim to have been "born again," but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim. In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its hype, it goes into the garbage heap.
There is a great market for religious experiences in our world; but there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue and little inclination to sign up for the long apprenticeship called Christian discipleship.
Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Religion is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure. For some it is a weekly jaunt to church; for others, occasional visits to special services. Some, with a bent for religious entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like retreats, rallies and conferences.
...Everyone is in a hurry. The persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach and teach, want shortcuts. They want me to help them fill out the form that will get them instant credit (in eternity). They are impatient for results and they wonder what’s wrong – why aren’t they “excited” for living for God? They have adopted a Christian lifestyle much like that of a tourist…only wanting the high points...The Christian life was not meant to lived out this way and cannot mature under such conditions or in such ways.
Friedrich Nietzsche, who, at least, saw this area of spiritual truth with great clarity, wrote, "The essential thing 'in heaven and earth' is...that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted, in the long run, something which has made life worth living." It is this "long obedience in the same direction" which the mood of the world does so much to discourage.
For recognizing and resisting the stream of the world's ways there are two biblical designations for people of faith that are extremely useful: disciple and pilgrim.
Disciple says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ... Many modern interpretations of what it means to be a disciple of Christ fail to understand the commitment it calls for. “Follow the rabbi, drink in his words, and be covered with the dust of his feet,” says the ancient Jewish proverb. Disciples followed their teacher so closely that they would be covered with the dust kicked up by the rabbi’s feet. Are you following Christ like that? So a disciple is a learner, but not in the academic setting of a school-room, rather at the work site of a craftsman. We do not solely acquire information about God but skills in faith.
Pilgrim tells us we are people who spend our lives going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way, Jesus Christ. We realize that "this world is not my home" and set out for "the Father's house”…for his “kingdom come.”