I’m always intrigued when Christians get into discussions of form in their faith. Normally this form centers around worship, order of worship and programs in churches. I’ve read on this subject in the past, I’ve seen articles in which styles of worship are either supported or criticized… I’ve also read articles and papers that deal with faith in terms of sin, punishment and guilt, but then this is usually done by folks who come from a background that is heavy on form. What I come across less is following, as in following Jesus Christ, unless of course it is preceded by a bunch of form.
I think that just maybe the church has done the faith a disservice over the centuries, with the result that there isn’t as much following as there should be!
If you were to look into the matter, and you took all of the names and labels out so that you could be impartial, I think you might discover that there are a great many Christian traditions that have grabbed onto form and forgotten all about following Jesus. Form as it is often emphasized has a way of becoming a sort of magical list of “do’s and don’ts,” and when you do the do’s on Sunday and feel terrible about doing the don’ts, then you’re good to go. Following Jesus isn’t always comfortable, for we can’t follow Him while we are in a perfect cocoon of holiness. No! If we follow Him, we need to be out among the unclean, the unwashed and the scary masses of people who need to hear about the life-change of becoming His follower. After all, isn’t that where Jesus went? Didn’t His critics accuse Him of consorting with sinners and prostitutes?
Well, as a matter of fact they did! The critics of Jesus tried to live in a little cocoon of perfection and perfect form too, and as I recall they were called Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and teachers of the Law. Is that where we want to be?
I think not!
Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not simply a matter of going to church on Sunday, going through the motions and form of worship, following a bunch of rules, feeling bad when we mess up and then going through the rest of the week like everyone else around us… only superior. Following Jesus means that we are willing to forgo the form, we confess our sins to Him and accept His gracious forgiveness with confidence that He will keep His word, and to take His love and grace to those members of the larger community who need His grace. It means that we are willing to serve other people selflessly in His service, and it means that we willing and ready to invest in others so that they too can follow Him. In short, it means that we love others as He did.
No sir, just following the forms and traditions are not good enough! Following a human-created set of rules is not enough. Being overcome by guilt has no place in the Christian life, either. Following Jesus Christ means loving God and loving our neighbor, and doing this includes getting our hands dirty in His service.