Is it enough to be a good person who believes in Jesus Christ, attends church regularly, does some volunteer work, and gives some money to charity? Does this qualify me as a Christian? I have been wrestling with such questions lately.
1 Corinthians 13, hailed as the “Love chapter” and read at many weddings, should not make me feel all warm and fuzzy. It’s a rather challenging and uncomfortable chapter. In the first verses, Paul is basically saying that doing stuff, even dramatic stuff like moving mountains and giving everything I own away to the poor, doesn’t count for anything unless I do it because I love others. He goes on to say that if I love, then I should be completely other-focused, never irritable, and not concerned if others take advantage of me. That’s a pretty tall order, and even among those of us who call ourselves Christians, it’s behavior we don’t see very often. I get mad at others, look down on others, and get my nose out of joint if I don’t get my way—and all within this community that is supposed to be the body of Christ. Ouch!
I wonder if Paul might have put it differently if he were writing today. Maybe he would have talked about how I feed the poor during the day at Macon Outreach, but don’t invite them to our church dinners. Maybe he would tell me to ditch all the committee meetings I attend and instead, go sit in the park and talk to, no, befriend someone who is down on his or her luck. Maybe he would simply say that if I am not on good terms with a fellow church member (or anyone else for that matter) I am just a fan of Jesus, not a follower.
Discipleship is not about making Jesus fit into what is comfortable for me. It’s about me being willing to become uncomfortable with what is deemed acceptable in our culture (and sometimes even in the church) and motivated to be different for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. Following Jesus is risky business. I have to get in the game, get hurt, and give my all. Being a fan means I can sit comfortably on the sidelines and cheer. But the risk of following is worth the reward of knowing Christ intimately and being transformed by him. I pray I have the faith and courage to be a follower.