The Risk of Following Closely
As my ministry has unfolded, I have come to realize that although those of us who live in the United States enjoy the privilege of worshiping without fear of reprisal, that privilege has often times contributed to a profound complacency in our faith experience. For many of us, the very ease with which we are able to attend worship blocks us from recognizing the hard work and risks involved in being a follower of Jesus. Believing faith to be a risk-free endeavor, we shy away from the hard work of the soul, and thus we frequently miss out on the deeply joyful and life-changing experience of being in a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.
It’s not that we do not desire to follow Jesus. We want to follow, but we don’t always want to follow too closely. It’s safer to follow at a distance, never going deeper in our faith than surface religious activity; never stepping close to the fire where we might be recognized, where we will stand out because of the way we live and the commitments we make. We are like Peter, who on the night Jesus was arrested, stood in the courtyard awaiting news of Jesus’ fate. He lurked in the shadows away from the fire, trying to be invisible, trying to avoid too close a connection with the one who had changed him to his very core. Yet, for our faith to be real, for it to be authentic, we must risk moving out of the shadows. So the question is, how close to the fire will we get?
When God became human in Jesus, it was with the promise of abundant life, a life of radical transformation and deep meaning. Are you challenged to move toward that promised transformation by stepping out of the shadows and into the light and heat of the fire, by choosing the place right next to Jesus, by following him not at a distance but by his side?
Following Jesus, truly following him, is never easy. There are risks, unexpected twists and turns, surprises and events that we never dreamed could happen. There are moments when following seems meaningful, full of excitement and joy. However, there are other times, times of difficulty, even danger, when we become discouraged and afraid, and things don’t seem to be turning out at all the way we thought they would.
Faith – real faith, authentic faith – involves a daily process of choosing. In the midst of all those unexpected twists and turns, in the midst of the meaningful and in the midst of the difficulty, a faith that is authentic requires a daily choice.
What kind of choices are you facing as you seek to follow Jesus? What hurdles have you encountered recently? What confirmations have you received that you are on the right track? Be confident that God will accompany you when you take the risk of exploring an authentic faith.