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FJ1: The 500 Pound Gorilla
Written by soulster   
Thursday, 09 August 2007

This is the first post in a series called Following Jesus.

500 pound gorillaThere is a 500-pound gorilla in the room. Can you feel him? He lurks in the shadows of our churches. When we look in our rear view mirrors on the way to work, he stares back. We can hear him give the occasional bored grunt from the next cubicle over at work. From sidewalks and grocery lines he glares accusingly, menacingly. He stubbornly takes up half the coach at home. You can almost feel his hot breath on your shoulder as you read this.

I was invited to speak at a conference of campus ministers a few days ago (see NCMS website). God had impressed upon me this deep sense that I should be there to listen. So I talked to the leaders and asked questions. What were the big issues they dealt with? What was the most troubling? My heart broke as these leader explained how they struggled with creativity, freedom, passion, motivation, and direction both in themselves and in those they lead. They questions they asked were haunting and hope-draining. Are these people really here for Jesus, or other reasons? Is this what Jesus would be doing if he was right here, right now? Are we becoming disciples or just religious adherents? Will this matter in the long run? Is this what it is really like to live out the Gospel and impact the world?

The gorilla is this question: “Are we really following Jesus?” Before you brush him off as if he has been rendered harmless by the usual answers, you might want to think about the havoc he’s reeking. The overwhelming consensus from outsiders peering in on Christianity is that we are a religion divorced from the teachings of our founder. They can take Jesus, but have trouble swallowing the people who claim to follow him [read They Like Jesus But Not The Church by Dan Kimball]. (And no, they are not convinced by our claims to superior morality — even if true, they care more about people that do good rather than are good.) Like it or not, the gorilla is convincing our culture we are bigots, hypocrites, and self-interested naval-gazers. Perhaps closer to home, the children of believers testify to the power of the gorilla. They are leaving churches in droves, and not coming back. For all the WWJD bracelets we’ve passed out, it seems they aren’t buying our claims to be serious about our faith. And what about the world in general? If the 1 billion adherents of Christendom were really following Jesus, wouldn’t we have put together the $13 billion necessary to end world hunger, ended a few wars rather than started them, developed better family dynamics instead of worse…need I go on.

So how do you deal with a 500-pound gorilla? The way I see it, there are basically three options:

  1. We ignore it. Sure, that sickening squishing sound made as the gorilla rips and tears people apart is a little unnerving, but it’s nothing we can’t blame on the recklessness of his victims and the cultural decline of our apostate culture. Tell you what, we’ll pretend that an elite group of us have solved the question by playing a little game of substitution. You say “following Jesus” and I’ll say “faithful church attendance,” “program involvement,” “moral living,” and “abundant financial giving.” Incidentally, does anyone know what happens when you ignore an angry gorilla?
  2. Face it On Your Own. Hmmm. What are my chances against quarter-ton animal? Sounds like I’m being setup for a butt-whooping. Maybe this is what happened to those ex-ministers once fired-up believers and who have condemned Christians and Christianity in bitterness, invented new religions, become perpetual critics, fallen into disillusionment, and lost faith. Poor guys. I feel for ya. I’ve gone a couple of rounds with the gorilla on my own and it wasn’t pretty.
  3. Let it Chase You Into the Arms of God. Who’s bigger than a gorilla? Perhaps we can turn his rampage into something constructive and hear his howling as a call to turn things around. Perhaps we can let him force us into a do-or-die corner where we will finally turn to Jesus and say “I’m ready to put all barriers aside. Show me how to follow you.”

Eli Wiesel, the first author to write about the Holocaust, tells about the aftermath of that incredible tragedy: The German theologians denied God had anything to do with it and placed him so far away in order to protect his honor that he was nowhere to be found, and they became atheists. Some of the Jews blamed God and condemned him for his injustice. They confronted him to make him pay, and when they thought they had their justice, they too became atheists. And other Jews took their questions and their pain and laid them out before God, because in their conviction he was the only possible source of answers and comfort. They became the peace-makers and the devout. Eli is one. He still allows his deep tragedy to drive him into the face of God, and so he has become one of the great souls of our time.

When organisms are faced with a great adaptive challenge — some change that places them in a evolve-or-die situation — there is only one way that leads to life, innovation, and growth. They must allow the space between order and chaos to pull to the surface new potentials from what has been invested in them by their Creator. To stay in the old order of things that are passing away is extinction. So is a blind leap into the ravenous maw of chaos. Stray but a little, and all is lost.

In the same way, new life in Christ and authentic Jesus following comes from us engaging the question in the Presence of God, allowing him to evolve us into new creations absolutely bent on living as disciples of our Friend, Brother, and King.

Stay tuned for more one how this might be done…


Original at: http://blog.thetruthtree.com/?p=28.
Last Updated ( Monday, 20 August 2007 )
 
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