In my early twenties, I was steeped in God life.
I was in seminary, ministry school. Reading the Bible intensively, and reading about the Bible intensively. Studying ministry and mission for best practices for the present and the future. Talking constantly with other students and friends about what we were learning.
And studying theology, the big concepts with multi-syllable words strung together in complex sentences. Trying to answer the questions that have plagued and mystified the Church through the centuries. Reaching for answers, as though the answers were just a fingertip beyond our grasp. Seeking doctrine.
In the midst of this heady, challenging, maddening time of reflection and study, I read an article in a Christian magazine. Just two pages long. If it were written and published online today, it would be marked “2 minute read.” I can still remember what the words look like spread across the pages. How could anything profound use so few words? And that title.
“Are You Following Jesus, Or Believing In Christ?”
The dichotomy was all in the title. I respond well to dichotomies, usually choosing one overagainst the other. (As I’ve gotten older, dynamic tension between opposites is more appealing. Such that the answer to that question would be, “Yes.”) But in that impressionable time, I was drawn to following Jesus, instead of believing in Christ.
Because believing is stagnant. Believing is doctrinal. Believing is getting it right more than getting it done. Believing is conceptual and heady, more than earthy and real.
But Jesus. Jesus was real, historic. Jesus is real, inspirational, challenging, leading, modeling. Jesus wants more than your assent, Jesus wants your life. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ call is to follow, not to pontificate and bloviate and lord it over others who don’t say it right.
Because you can’t really follow wrong. Following close or at a distance are both following. Following all in or part-time and half-hearted are both following. All sincere or somewhat skeptical is still following. You can’t really follow wrong, but you can always follow better.
Given the choice, believing is all right, but following is everything.