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Following and Being Led April 2, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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One of my teachers in childhood, probably my dad, told me about how different sets of people responded when Jesus was on earth. I honestly can’t remember who it was, but I imagine my dad’s analytical, mathematical mind at work here. The way he described them was in a kind of set theory, with concentric rings.

First, his disciples. They were the inner circle-his closest friends. They lived with him, followed him to learn not just his verbal teachings but also how he lived and worked. It is not surprising to see that they are the ones who wrote the Bible, as they heard it first hand and watched as he walked the earth. They saw his heart.

Second, his true followers. Here my teacher pointed out there is a difference between following and being led. The true followers weren’t just following, they were being led. They were the ones who started the Christian church. Many of them were martyred for their faith under Roman oppression.

Next there were the critics. They followed very closely, examined his actions in minute detail, and alerted him if they noticed a hair out of place. Shameless self-promoters, they couldn’t figure out the right way to make themselves look better, so they tried to make others look bad so they looked better in comparison. They questioned him (Matthew 12, Mark 3, Luke 14) for healing someone because he happened to do it on the Sabbath. “Shouldn’t you be resting, Jesus, instead of healing people?” They questioned (Matthew 9, see also Matthew 11 or Luke 7) his motley crew of friends: prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen, beggars. “Could you not associate with such low rent people? You’re making us look bad.” If I were he, I would have a mixture of emotions about that. Their devotion to the letter of personal purity was admirable. But their understanding of the purpose of the law, the spirit in which it was intended, was lacking. And although the quote was my own fabrication, I can hear them asking. And I can hear his answer, “Well, if it makes you look bad because you only want to hang out with friends in high places, maybe you should join us!”

Two country songs just perfectly popped into my head. “Friends in Low Places,” and “Better Class of Losers.” These were Jesus’ friends, because he met them where they were, and made himself accessible to them. The prideful who didn’t really feel they needed Jesus’ help could stay off at the distance and criticize if they felt the need. Jesus came to help the sick, the poor, the oppressed, and mostly, the repentant. Repentant just means the person wants to turn away from fake gods, personal idols, old hopeless things, bad habits and sin in general, and then follow Jesus and have Him change their hearts. If that makes me one of the “better class of losers,” then thank you Jesus. If I had to be all high-class, all the time, I’d never make it.

Then there was an outer circle of people who followed and weren’t being led by him. One example of this kind of person would be the religious man who had followed all of the laws except secretly in his heart he held money as an idol. It’s in Matthew 19, and Mark 10. He left sad because Jesus had asked him to surrender it to the poor, and just follow Him in blind faith. Maybe pride was also an idol to him, like the “high-class living,” pharisaical critics.

And finally there were the crowds who followed just to see the show. I can hear their laughter as Jesus called out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. I can hear their hushed awe as he healed the sick, blind, the lame. As he took authority over demons I hear some say, “this is obviously smoke and mirrors and really good acting.” Some wondered how he did that, if it was real. And these saw when he was crucified and believed it was all just a great show, but nothing life-changing.

From the lamentation over Jerusalem (Matthew 23, or Luke 13) that Jesus cried out, I think Jesus loved people and celebrated when they followed Him, and grieved when they didn’t listen or weren’t paying attention to a message He intended to change their hearts. Or missed an important principle in the scrolls they studied, as the scribes and Pharisees did.

I’ve just started following several bloggers, and being followed by several people as well. It’s because I’m new to the blogging realm. I’m also exploring at random to see what might be out there. Some of the posts are really great. And some are less great. The latter is just referring to my own posts. But I like to read what other people are thinking about, and sometimes I can find encouragement.

I wonder whether Jesus took encouragement from those healings performed on the Sabbath. Maybe, more than a labor of effort it may have been a labor of love, and therefore not really qualifying as “work.” I know pastors who “work” on Sunday, and they make it look easy. But it IS work. These pastors, some of them take a different “day of rest,” because after all, God said to set aside a day of rest each week, for everyone including Pastors.

In the blogosphere, too, we live in a community just as Jesus did. Here, there is a difference between following and being led as well. I can follow and listen to hear what is being said. Some people resonate, and I feel like they are leading my mind somewhere. Some take me to happy discoveries. Some I heartily disagree with, or even dislike what they may say. I can still follow and read and appreciate the viewpoint and the skilled, persuasive expression, but I don’t have to be led by them to change my opinion. And unlike the critics in Jesus’ day, I don’t care to dive into being a blog critic just now. There’s too much to celebrate, too much to read, too much to write, and too little time to do anything else. If it comes to that, I’ll apologize in advance.

For now, I’m just writing this to tell the people that I’m following, and the people that I’m just discovering, that I like you. I may not like what you say. I may disagree with your opinions. We may lament like Jesus over logical flaws in reasoning, on one side or another. There may be grammatical errors or even a countrified, southern drawl. I did, after all, spend a long time in North and South Carolina. But there is a beauty in the freedom to express what we believe, how we think, what we admire and enjoy.

I expect you’ll disagree with my opinions and logic and dislike my writing and editing skills at times. Maybe you’ll hate my references to the Bible, and talking about Jesus so much. Maybe you’ll notice I have favorite verses I seem to always recall in my writing, to a point where I look at myself and see that I’m somewhat insufferable. I’ll beg your forgiveness and patience. I frequently am aware of the limitations that hold me back from being a better, more well-rounded writer, so I’m seeking to learn more. We’re all on a journey at different skill levels and with different opinions and different things to enjoy. I think it’s priceless. And so are you. I hope you’ll keep reading, and more importantly, keep writing!

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