Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In His Steps...Really?

Lately I have been re-reading Charles Sheldon's "In His Steps". I read it years ago, after I began to follow Jesus, and was very moved by the story and the idea of patterning my life after Jesus Christ's. "In His Steps" is the story of a small church whose members make the commitment to ask, "What would Jesus do?" The changes in their lives that result from their commitment bring them hardships, sacrifices and trouble, but also great joy and peace.

I have to admit, as I re-read this wonderful story, one question keeps coming to mind. How did such a revolutionary, profound idea as patterning one's life after the life of Jesus Christ lead to a logo, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?), that would end up engraved on jewelry, stamped on fashionable clothing and fixed onto placards and bumper stickers to be used to adorn our fine homes and vehicles? How did we come to turn a solemn, life changing question into easy banter, a flip observation, an experiment?

I understand the hesitation to embrace the lifestyle of discipleship to Jesus. Luke 14:25 - 35 talks about counting the cost of discipleship, and it is high.

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

It is important to understand that until we are ready to go all the way that Jesus will lead, we need to spend time in prayer and preparation, allowing God to strengthen us and help us prepare for the journey. A wise pastor once told me that if I was not willing to take a certain step for God, I could ask God to make me willing, or even willing to be willing if needed. I did just that, and a year later when the step of faith was presented to me, I was able to leap into it without hesitation. God is faithful in the face of our most pitiful weaknesses!

We are fooling ourselves in thinking that He will accept half-hearted disciples who wish to remain half-hearted. But those who confess half-heartedness and desire more are met with love and compassion and great, heart changing power.

I understand that the hesitation. What I don't get is the whole-hearted embracing of the WWJD motto without whole-heartedly embracing the actual commitment!

For the people in the book, for Charles Sheldon, WWJD was written on their hearts in sweat and tears. It was not embossed in gold on calfskin leather Bibles. Or engraved in a shiny medallions. Am I advocating against these things? Of course not. As with all things spiritual, this is a heart issue. The commitment to living as Jesus would, to choosing in every decision to do what Jesus would do led to people giving up lives of self-actualization, self-indulgence, self-focus, unadulterated comfort, social standing and financial security in order to place their hope in something greater and their efforts in something far more precious than anything they had worked towards before.

These choices were not those that they made for each other. The spirit of the book is one of grace, patience, kindness and a deep respect for their fellow disciples. Each person worked out their own path to obedience to Christ from their own relationships with Him. There was a humility of spirit that prevented judgmental attitudes towards each other.

I am speaking to myself as much as to anyone. When I re-read this book, my first thought was surprise. It felt like I was reading it for the first time. I didn't remember all the pain and sacrifices. Maybe I felt admiration for these fine, courageous people. Maybe I wished I had wealth that I too could sacrifice for Jesus. I have learned since that I am wealthy, in many ways, and have much to share with others. Do I share my wealth in a way that Jesus wants me too? Believe me, I am speaking to myself.

I have a lot of questions today. Not a lot of answers, though. I think these may be the kind of answers that take time and prayer to find. I think...I believe they are worth the effort. Jesus is worth the effort.


Wendy Farha said...

Well said, my friend. Lots of food for thought. :)

Kelly said...

Thank you, Wendy. :)

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