September 13, 2015
Follow me. If you didn’t know these were Jesus’ words you might have found them suspicious, as if a child kidnapper is talking here. Or you could find them conceited or preposterous, who can claim such request?
Follow me. Uttering these words as a church these days makes them also come across as suspicious, conceited, as a broken record, as if we are out of strikes in using them. And it doesn’t help that very questionable faith expressions continue to make their way into breaking news, the Rowan County clerk Kim Davis being the latest example.
Christians looking for common sense may get the feeling that they are part of the last Mohicans. A growing number of church members are already voicing a sense of survival spirit, saying churches are become like the medieval monasteries: well-protected bastions of faith, reason, and culture where dedicated people continue to cherish pearls of wisdom until a future generation is able to care for them.
Follow me. A closer look at this Sunday’s “Follow Me” Gospel (Mark 8:27-38) may already encourage us to launch louder appeals for healthy Christianity, for a stop to Christians who come with these 1-2-3 salvation claims and like to combine them with irrational moral overreach. Yes, the Gospel values that people call Jesus the Christ or My Lord and Savior. Jesus gives you an A+ on your Gospel report card. But right away Jesus clarifies to Peter that this doesn’t make you into a direct spokesperson for the divine. Many people believing in God these days make the same mistake Peter made: once they believe in God they think they can speak for God. Isis-leaders and all sort of fundamentalists fall into this dangerous trap. In Christianity, however, the importance of God’s word has always been balanced with conduct, as the letter of James is highlighting and read during these Sundays.
As it turns out, Follow me is a coach call, an appeal for excellence, not primarily excellence of performance or acquisition. Follow me calls for actions of the heart: it is an invitation for nobility of the heart, a heart that fills life with the love of God. This requires discipline, a commitment to honor each other’s dignity, a recognition of the value of radical service. Let us pray that we are ready to follow Christ, not just with words, but also with this conduct of love Christ is calling for.