Following Jesus into the Grey

Life is simply complicated.  Following Jesus, I’ve learned, can intensify the complexity.  Setting aside all of the obvious and colossal benefits of salvation for just a few minutes, I’d like a chance to explain.  Our lives are largely consumed by activities we have chosen for ourselves.  We work in careers we have selected, spend time with friends and family as we chose, watch movies and television we select, recreate in places we please, use family planning techniques to fix our family size, shop for clothes at our favorite stores, and on and on.

When my life is my life, then I chose how these big pieces of my time are spent.  Why I chose what I chose is sacred, and in our society protection of choice is elevated to highest level.  I readily admit that I am a fan of choice, and resist feeling cornered into uses of my time and life.  This attitude has profoundly affected my relationship with Jesus (heck, the use of the wording “my relationship with Jesus” alone kills any doubt).

I’ve always understood the personal and private call of Jesus which leads me to make choices about my life.  The Scriptures lay out many laws and principles which should inform my actions.  I’ve always understood this in a private way as God’s commandments affect my inward life.  Many of these are black and white issues: like the 10 Commandments.  Do _____, Don’t _______ .  I get those.

Something uncomfortable about my life that I’m learning is that all things considered- I’m totally selfish.  I make choices with the greatest consideration given to how it will impact…me.  So lately I’ve been feeling like a bit of a scum bag for someone working for a church full-time.  I truly do desire to follow Jesus, and to be close to him.  The source of my uneasiness of late are two connected thoughts:

  1. If I want to follow Jesus, I’ve got to go where He goes.
  2. Jesus seems to go smack dab in the middle of people who are weak, hurting, and outsiders.
  3. (okay– 3 thoughts) AND I tend to avoid those people.

This is the grey in my life right now.  What should I be doing really with my life.  I get my role as a husband and dad and as an employee, and as a son and a brother.  But as a Jesus-follower?  Hmmmm.  If that means more than the impact Jesus has on my personal life– purity, wholeness and the like– but also includes a moral obligation and calling to follow him into the areas of deepest need in my world, then I might be in trouble.  What if I’m going through life still choosing to do what I want to do, admittedly with a Christian moral filter and good intentions to serve Jesus, rather than actually following Jesus?
I’ll end with one story Jesus told that summarizes my uncomfortable self-evaluation. It’s found in the gospel of Matthew chapter 25:

   31 “But when the Son of Man[d] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations[e] will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

   37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

   40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to me!’

   41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.[g] 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

   44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

   45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

   46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

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