I am enamored with the person of Jesus. I think one of the reasons I like him so much is because I spend most of my time so unJesus like. He inspires me, excites me, draws me near and in those moments of unJesus-ness, he loves, forgives and accepts me.
And when he says, “Follow me” I am amazed at that opportunity.
One of the things that I also notice in his life is that when he says that, he tells and shows us just what we are in for and what our life should look like. In particular, I’m struck by four things:
[pullquote]Jesus said, “Come. Follow me.”[/pullquote]
Jesus was known as a ‘friend of tax collectors and sinners’ or of ‘tax collectors and prostitutes’ and even ‘tax collectors and Gentiles’ (let’s you know how much tax collectors were hated in their day). Whatever word choice the Gospels writers (and Jesus audience) used to describe him, it should serve as a reminder to us about where we hang out and have our friends. As a pastor, I see this as a particular identity that I want to watch carefully. To whom are we giving our friendships? Would people categorize us as a person with the right friends that look good on paper or as someone that has friends at the margins? Are we known because of our friends promising positions or because of our friends with no position? When Jesus says, “Follow Me.” he is giving us a command to befriend the types of people that he did.
Jesus was also accustomed to hardship and rejection. People doubted, betrayed, left, lied about, persecuted, abandoned and hurt Jesus. Bruxy Cavey at the Future Gospel gathering said, “The Pharisees were so zealous about God’s word the book that they hated God’s Word the person.” (thanks to @geoffholsclaw for the sweet tweet). Everywhere he went, Jesus experience pushback from people that couldn’t buy in. Mark six even tells us that in one place Jesus couldn’t do miracles because the people lacked faith. When Jesus says, “Follow Me.” he is giving us a warning that we will not always be welcomed and greeted with enthusiasm.
Jesus also knew what it meant to experience the blessings of God. The resurrection gives us undeniable proof of that. Jesus, always in the presence of God, knew that whatever might come, God was bigger and better than all of it. In the bad times of pain, despair, fear, rejection and those sleepless nights of ministry, Jesus could abide faithfully in God as his rock. And in those moments of great pain, elation, praise, cheering and hype, Jesus knew that God provided the true way forward. Not distracted by earthly praise and human attempts for recognition, Jesus was able to keep his eyes fixed on God and claim his true identity. When Jesus says, “Follow Me” he is telling us to keep our eyes fixed on God who blesses and assures those that pursue him honestly.
Missional Spirituality must take into account each of these four themes. As a people participating in God’s mission we too must have friends on the margins, we must be fully aware that our message will not be perceived well by all, and we must know that through everything God is faithful and blesses our mission to reach people for him.
This is an updated post. The original version was posted on April 13, 2013.