Have you ever gotten so caught up in someone talking and found yourself agreeing so much that, later, you struggled to remember some of the first things you heard? It’s an odd sensation. In the moment, you may find yourself being greatly moved, feeling compelled or challenged, and sensing the gravity of the moment. Then, even just a few hours later, you find yourself struggling to recall what it was exactly that compelled you so.
I think many of our discipleship strategies suffer from this phenomenon, specifically related to Jesus’ oft-cited statement: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The Life, The Truth
We’ve got The Life one down. Consider any evangelistic presentation. The emphasis is on life with God, going to Heaven, or, maybe abundant life through Christ. On occasion, abundant life with Christ may even be the emphasis of a discipleship emphases. At minimum, you’ve heard about it in a sermon in the recent path.
Check plus on The Truth, too. Particularly in evangelical circles, the truth is emphasized. The Bible contains the truth. Learn the Bible to know God. The Bible is innerant, infallible, and authoritative. Culture will attempt to deceive you, but we have The Truth to which we can and should hold.
Oh Yeah, That Other Thing
Unfortunately, our discussions of “the way” are often relegated to generic admonitions to pray and have a quiet/devotional time. Leading up to election time, perhaps a “Christian” way to vote will be intoned or blatantly stated. You may even hear admonitions towards being involved in a church as being important for a Christian way of life.
But that’s probably about it. As far as a “way” of life goes, these areas are pretty limited. Do we realize that our manner of life as Christians has implied that only about 3.5 hours (1 hour for worship services, 1 hour for small groups, about an hour and a half for personal spiritual disciplines) of our 168 hours in a week really matter towards our pursuit of Christ?
This is the Way
I don’t watch The Mandalorian, but I’ve observed with curiosity as I’ve recently seen scores of people repeating the line, “This is the way” from the show. What a tremendous opportunity for Christians to make a quick bee-line to Jesus’ way of life!
At least, it could have been. If we’d actually been living in and teaching others to live in Jesus’ way of life. We’ve been preoccupied on the eternal life He offers and the truth claims of our faith.
Hear me out: it’s not that these are unimportant or trivial. It’s just that focusing exclusively on them to the detriment of living in the way of Jesus is destined to distort the picture of Jesus we present with our lives. It’s destined to leave us pursuing a version of faith outside of Jesus’ intention. It’s destined to ring hollow to people outside of our faith who see no substance to the stands we make.
Far from an exhaustive list, here are a few observations I’ve made over the last several months from the life of Jesus regarding His way of life that we, as His followers, could stand to emulate:
- Siding with the vulnerable— Jesus regularly spoke up for those considered the dregs of society. In doing so, He also exhorted them to repentance and holiness. His siding was not tacit approval of every aspect of their lives, but a prophetic meeting of justice and gospel proclamation. That meeting always started with a demonstration of radical, sometimes scandalous, grace offered.
- Spending time in solitude— Jesus traveled with 12 disciples and, it seems, often had a retinue of other parties with Him during most of His 3-year ministry. Which is why He made space for regular retreats from others to be alone with the Father. Jesus got up early in the morning to pray and took all-night prayer retreats. Our pattern is the opposite. We’re so busy that we consider ourselves fortunate to find 5 minutes to mutter a few phrases we consider prayer and call it a victory.
- Embracing interruptions— Have you ever noticed that many of Jesus’ miracles occurred while He was doing something else? Turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana? He was just there trying to enjoy a party. Healing the woman with the discharge of blood? He was on his way to the synagogue ruler’s house to heal his daughter. Healing the lame man whose friends lowered him through the roof of the house? He was in that house to teach others. It wasn’t His scheduled miracle-performing time. Even Jesus’ life teaches us that our greatest opportunities to serve and share with others often occurs outside of our calendar.
And that’s just the 3 that have been the greatest struggle for me.
The Way of Jesus will lead us to a rich, personal faith. It will also motivate us to intentionally engage and care for the vulnerable in a way that flies in the face of the models presented to us by others. It will also lead us to strive to develop the mind of Christ in us, which leads us to consider the very way we think as a means of discipleship– a much more comprehensive and holistic view of discipleship than the 3.5 hour model.
The Way of Jesus is vital for our flourishing as His disciples. It’s a way of life that is drastically “other” from other models we see. But as we take up the task of living in His way, we also discover the beauty and power in Jesus’ proclamation that “His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.”