We believe that following Jesus as Lord in all of life means that the Christian life is characterized by love, integrity, purity, and simplicity. The believer’s commitment to Christ and the global church becomes the standard for discerning the level of participation in society.
Following Jesus as Lord
“Follow me”. This was the invitation that Jesus extended to his first disciples (Matthew 4:18-22, 9:9). Following is what defines a disciple. A disciple follows their master, learns from them and strives to become like them. We are disciples of Jesus. Jesus commissioned his followers with these words:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Notice that they were commanded to “make disciples”. Christianity is about more than simply getting a ticket to heaven. It is an invitation to a life of following Jesus, a life of discipleship. This is not about earning our salvation. Discipleship is not about doing good works so that God might possibly save us. Salvation is the gift and grace of God (see the earlier article on salvation). We follow Jesus because we are saved not to get saved. But a Christian actually does seek to follow Jesus, or they are not actually a Christian.
All of life –
There is no aspect of life that is exempt from the rule of Jesus. The goal of discipleship is to bring every part and moment of our lives under the loving direction of Jesus. Our work, family, holidays, entertainment, money, possessions and everything else is to be submitted to Christ. Sometimes people have said that right now is not the best time to follow Jesus. They may be too young; there is so much of life that they wish to experience. Or perhaps they are too busy; they have a young family and are trying to establish a career. Or perhaps they are too old; they have put in their time and are too old to change. Yet we are called to follow in Jesus in all of life. And all of life means in every moment of life. If we are breathing are we to be seeking to become more like Jesus.
Love is foundational to a disciple’s life. When asked what the greatest commandment is Jesus said
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord
is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
Jesus also told his followers
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Love is not optional for a follower of Jesus. It is our greatest command and what defines us to the world. Sometimes it has been argued that as Christians we need to maintain a balance. No. We are called to be radically unbalanced when it comes to love.
For some this sets off alarms because they believe that this means we have to say that everything and anything goes and is good under the banner of love. No. We do stand in truth. And God is holy. And we are called to holiness. However it is vitally important, especially in this day and age, that people realize that we love them, especially if we disagree and challenge with them.
As followers of Jesus we are to live lives of integrity. Jesus said “All you need to say is simply “yes” or “no”” (Matthew 5:37).
For some Anabaptists this has meant that they literally refuse to swear oaths. Jesus is calling us to something more than just that. It is that we speak and live in a completely trustworthy way. The internet has made living in integrity very interesting and difficult. They are many different opinions, hoaxes, and stories circulating the internet. Sometimes it has been difficult to know what is true and false. Yet as followers of Jesus we are called to live with integrity and honesty on the internet. This surely means that we have some obligation to do some checking before passing on things. This is especially true since the internet has become a tool of gossip, slander, and public shaming. Followers of Jesus need to be honest and loving on the internet.
We are called to purity and holiness.
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, be- cause I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)
Followers of Jesus are different than the rest of the world. Our pattern for living is not our society around us. Our model and example for life is Jesus. He is our master and we are his disciples. Humanity was created as image bearers of God (Genesis 1-2). One of the things that this means is that we are to reflect the character of God to this world. We are not to reflect whatever our culture happens to be valuing right now.
A large part of our journey as followers of Jesus is to put off the world’s ways of thinking and living and put on the new way given to us by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:13-26). This requires us to be honest about our sin, to confess it, to repent (turn away), and accept the grace and forgiveness of God.
Living simply means that we are free from the power of money and materialism. Jesus said,
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
Our world is deeply trapped by greed and materialism. For many their worth, sense of security, and hope is based on their possessions or money. For followers of Jesus our worth, security, and hope is based on the love of God. This practically means that we can be generous. Generous in our tithing and giving to the poor. Instead of simply accumulating things for ourselves we can look to the needs of others.
Participation in Society
There is a lot of debate within the church about how much a follower of Jesus should participate in society. Often Anabaptists have been very hesitant to get overly involved in society. Too often involvement has led us to compromise our message. Instead of announcing Jesus as the savior and Lord we sometimes come across like we announcing that a certain political party or company or policy or program as the savior of the world. On the other hand to withdraw from all engagement in the world often means that we stop being “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).
There is no simple answer to this. Participation in society requires much prayer and discern. The commentary that accompanies our confession of faith states: “We will participate with persons and organizations that we discern are promoting peace, justice, reconciliation, generosity, truth, health, and godly values. We will challenge people and groups engaged in war, injustice, racism, greed, deception, disease, and ungodliness.”
As Christians we are to follow Jesus each and every day of our lives. Let us become more and more like Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ben Klassen is the pastor at the Altona EMM Church, Manitoba. He and his wife Cindy are kept busy raising their three daughters.
EMMC Confession of Faith
Part 8 of 12-part series
July / August 2015 The Recorder