Form, Faith and Following

1114 023-LR

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.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
This entry was posted in Christian Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Form, Faith and Following

  1. Little Monk says:

    Reblogged this on The Postmodern Mystic and commented:
    This is a terrific post from a colleague, and I was going to respond with the “Comment” section. That would be way too long, so I will present some thoughts on this in the next post, and spare his longsuffering readers.

  2. Little Monk says:

    Thank you for this, Don. I’m reblogging it, and then following up in my own back yard!

  3. mphull83 says:

    I remember when I was younger and I felt the call of ministry on my life I went to a minister that I knew and he handed me a doctrine book, which happened to be approximately the same size as the Bible. I remember thinking then about how silly it is that man feels they need to jump in and better explain what God has clearly written in his word. I was raised in a Pentecostal church and we tend to pride ourselves in stating that it is the Bible and the Bible alone but the truth of the matter is that doctrine books come before Biblical teaching in the denomination that I was raised and sadly it is the same for most denominations that I have come in contact with during my life.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I hear what you’re saying here, and as much as I’d like to say that you are wrong, I can’t. How sad. I agree that the Bible is pretty darn clear, but for most folks, myself included, it took a while before it was clear to me. Your point has been discussed for centuries now, because we have taken the Bible and made it academic. When I was a seminary professor, that’s mostly how I had to approach it, but I became very concerned about the fact that we emphasized systematic theology (doctrine) and too often neglected applied theology (life). The result is just as you say: the doctrine is more important to most than the simple and clear teachings of the Word. You’d think we would value the Word as “living and active” more than reducing it to a mere school subject, but all too often that doesn’t seem to happen.

      • mphull83 says:

        I believe that there is definitely room for in depth discussions about the deeper meanings of our faith and that doctrinal studies are a great and powerful tool which can help us grow in faith over time. Unfortunately the doctrine becomes the first love in many denominations and the love of Christ and his word come second or even third when you add tradition to the picture.

        When we take our focus off of Christ, our love quickly wanes and we fill that void with doctrine and traditions to allow us to feel good enough.

  4. You are of course absolutely right, but you need to do more than be with the people. I know you are an advocate of reaching out and serving people. We must also dedicate ourselves to teaching the word of God with intent on saving as many souls as possible. It is not enough to feed and cloth and wash the people. We need to give them the hope of eternal life. I’m not suggesting that you propose we ignore our responsibility to save people’s souls. I just wanted to point out the need for both.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Thank you for saying that! I guess I’ve done so many posts on this subject over the last couple of years that I forget there are always people dropping by who haven’t seen the old ones, so I appreciate you mentioning that.

      Just to be clear, when I speak of reaching out and being with others (the lost if you like) If we feed, clothe and wash, it is for the purpose of reaching them for Christ. If we serve others it is for the purpose of reaching them for Christ, and if they are already in Christ, it is for the purpose of helping them to grow in their faith so that they, too will come to the point where they reach out… None of this “reaching out” is just to look good and be thought nice, it is always for the cause of Christ!

  5. Pingback: And Now, for Something Completely Different… | The Postmodern Mystic

  6. Pingback: Form, Faith and Following | A disciple's study

  7. Bravo sir… bravo!! Great post.. great message!

  8. Pingback: A new conversation | Just me being curious

  9. Pingback: Whose House? – Part One – The Fall | The Postmodern Mystic

  10. Messenger At The Crossroads says:

    Scripture says quite a bit about having a form of godliness but denying the power, and that our righteousness needs to exceed the scribes and the Pharisees, being a matter of transformation of the heart. No, Jesus didn’t walk around, as you point out, with an air of artificial outward piety, but that of radiating Divine Light – which was where His power to love unconditionally and do miracles came from. Wonder what would happen if there were more of an emphasis on being the jello rather than the mould, in a manner of speaking?

    • Don Merritt says:

      Well now that is a great way of putting it, and I suspect that if we kep a little better balance between form and substance, or jello and moulds, we might see some amazing things!

  11. Pingback: Whose House? – Part III – The Discovery | The Postmodern Mystic

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s