Followers of Jesus

th-6A comment from yesterday’s Catch reads: “John…. Would you please elaborate on your comment, “Followers of religion and politics are angry and fearful. They are trying to get America back. Followers of Jesus are loving and hopeful. They are trying to give America away.” Please be clear.”

Gladly. To be sure, these are trends, not categories that we put people in. They capture some primary differences about popular trends in thinking. Part of my goal with my writing in the Catch is to think out loud about how I think. In regards to worldview especially, there are ways of thinking we often adopt with little or no examination. They come with a certain amount of justification which may seem right in relation to current trends, but further thought might reveal errors or dangers in thinking that way. By thinking out loud, I am trying to encourage you to examine your own thinking. I don’t expect you to agree with me on everything, but I hope I might inspire you to think critically about your own thoughts. This is what I was referring to yesterday.

This is what I think is going on, and I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of this for about 30 years. Followers of religion and politics are Christians who have been highly influenced by the importance of morality and controls on society that hold back moral decline. They see America as getting worse and worse and want to harken back to a time when society was more “Christian.” Not that people were all Christians, but Judeo-Christian ethics affected policy in the marketplace more than it seems to today. Therefore to “take America back” would be to have Christian values reflected in society, and it is popular to believe that can be politically attained. I personally don’t think it can, but that’s for another discussion.

Embedded in this kind of thinking is a fear of how bad things are getting and a certain helplessness about being able to do anything about it, so when someone comes along and says, “No, you can do something about it; you can vote for this guy and get behind this agenda” many Christians responded out of this fearful, desperate place.

With this fear about society comes a focus on morality. Indeed, an argument can be made that morality has been more important to Christians in culture for the last 30 years than the gospel. We even called ourselves the Moral Majority for the longest time. And alongside a call for a certain social morality (what I am calling “religion” in society) comes a tendency to judge that which is immoral and feel justified in a certain amount of anger or righteous indignation at that which is evil. All conflicts are put in terms of good and evil and Christians are suppose to hate evil and cling to what is good. The problem here is that this very rapidly escalates into Pharisaical condemnation and self-righteousness – a certain blindness to the evil in oneself.

In contrast to this Dan Merchant introduced in his film the fact that a real encounter resulting in a relationship with Jesus changes all this. In Jesus we realize we are all in sin. In Jesus we realize we have all already been judged on the cross. In Jesus we realize that God isn’t counting people’s sins against them any longer – God isn’t mad anymore – so why should we be? This is the acceptable day of the Lord. This is the day of salvation. In Jesus, we realize that regardless of what is happening in the moral decline of culture, we can love everyone as being in the image of God and someone for whom Christ died. In Jesus, we cease to focus on the sin of others and be more inclined to confess our own sin, and in confessing our own sin, we can be more hopeful towards others, knowing that God loves them and has already forgiven them just as He loves us.

So Christians who are following Jesus have kindness and love to give away, and they, like Jesus, care especially about people who are poor and oppressed, who are in prison or dying with AIDS among other things. These followers of Jesus are taking the great concept of freedom in America and using it to serve those who are needy both here and abroad. That’s what I meant by giving America away. A good idea, I think.

You can now hear last night’s interview with Dan by clicking here!

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10 Responses to Followers of Jesus

  1. Lois Taylor says:

    Well said, John. You are so good at getting down to the basics of Christianity. It is a relationship with Jesus and continually striving to be like Him.

  2. Pat Klever says:

    John –

    When I was in Afghanistan, I met Karzai’s cousin during Ramadan. He talked about how one worker — a christian, he said — was beaten for smoking a cigarette during this time. A short while later, we headed off to lunch with him. And he ate with us. I asked him how he could do that during Ramadan, and was he a Christian. He replied that he was a christian when he needed to be and a Muslim when he needed to be that. That was when I first realized that there was a difference between Christians and christians. Capital-C Christians don’t believe in religion; Christians believe in — and follow — Christ. Small-c christians, on the other hand, are about appearances, are about religion, are about rules. And ever since, I’ve never referred to christians as Christians because, as you point out, christians are more Pharasiacal in nature rather than being Christ-like.

    Pat

  3. Brilliant, as always. Haven’t listened to the interview with Dan yet, but let me offer two points. (1) Our whole society has grown to believe that anything that offends us can and must be solved through legislation. Bullying? Homophobia? Smoking in a public place? Don’t bother with grace, praying for one another or discussing differences in a spirit of love and humility: just slam down a law against it and everyone who disagrees can just keep it to themselves, or else.

    (2) Canada has become a proving ground for your point about “vote for this guy and get behind this agenda”. Our current prime minister and his party were elected because many evangelical Christians saw in this church-going leader someone who would bring Godliness to Ottawa. Anyone who thought he would undo the moves past governments had made on certain issues that offended their morality has been sorely disappointed; his government is caught up in a scandal and web of lies that make Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook” look like a heartfelt “mea culpa”; and a couple of days ago, one cabinet minister stated that it is not government’s job to feed “my neighbor’s children” — a Cain philosophy if ever there was one. So anyone who thinks Godliness will return just by voting for the guys who go to church is in for bitter disappointment.

    Bottom line: Jesus wasn’t political or religious, and we need to be wary that our walk doesn’t become a matter of “who’s right” over “what’s right”.

  4. TimC says:

    Good stuff!
    One thing that I find interesting is that there are some facets of Christianity that are unbelievably “liberal” and some facets that are quite “conservative”. On the other hand, there are some facets of “liberal political thought” that are unbelievably anti-moral, and some facets of “conservative political thought” that are quite un-Christian.
    And unfortunately, each camp wants to jam Christianity into a box of their own preconceived misconceptions. But followers of Christ are often called to go outside of those badly defined boxes. And whenever someone steps outside of the phony baloney box there is all kinds of flak to catch from all directions.
    Perhaps there is some truth to the old saying that if you’re taking flak from both camps, you might be doing something right. Or maybe not.

    • jwfisch says:

      I agree. The truth offends both sides of a polarity to some degree. And we’ve got more than a fair share of polarity in our culture right now.

  5. Peter Leenheer says:

    Great discussion on politics and religion. I would like to dive into politics. It seems the christians as well as other voters come from the perspective of idealism…..government will fix everything. At least in Canada that is the thing to do. If you need money go to the government. If there is a problem let the government fix it. We then sit in our armchairs and criticize, judge and condemn.because low and behold the government isn’t perfect. The media hangs around like vultures, and complain if they do not get enough gossip. What can be an honest mistake usually turns into a hanging. King David was to me the example of a Godly king but only because of his heart not because of his sin. When it comes to government, mistakes are not allowed, is it any wonder that we see one cover up after another.

    In Canada, I agree our Prime Minister is in trouble but he is also the one who asked the native people for forgiveness for previous government abuse of them as a people, in what was a heartfelt apology. With regards to “it isn’t government’s job to feed the hungry”, it isn’t, it is everyone’s job. The media has been shut down by our present Prime Minister because they can and do make a mountain out of a molehill or make a scandal out of tiny error.

    We had a provincial Premier here in Alberta not long ago who openly spoke about doing the right thing. The man was a christian. He tried to do the right thing in many areas but in any political mandate you usually have to deal with messes you didn’t make but are blamed for anyway. The man was politically crucified yet he was effective. Much like Jesus. Often we need to look under the surface before we see clearly.

    Politics has no mercy and neither does religion. Is it any wonder that we bully each other.

  6. This is what a friend said after I quoted you on facebook. She comes to our Bible study but does not identify as Christian.
    John Fisher is an articulate spokesman for followers of Jesus Christ’s message. Helps those of us who have suffered at the hands of the so-called Christian “followers of religion and politics” to remember that not all Christians are on a mission of hate and judgment of others. Thanks for posting, Tim Morris. Seems appropriate for the Christmas season. Hope to hear more from those who think as Fisher does in 2014.

    • Another friend said,
      “Thanks, Tim. I read the article and it’s as if he took my thoughts and opinions, which are jumbled and messy, as best, and fitted them together perfectly. I loved it. Have a great day….”

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