Is it possible to worship Jesus too much? This is a question I have been tossing around, because I think my worship of Jesus can sometimes get in the way of my following Him. What I mean is that Jesus has utterly turned my life upside down through my learning to remember that along with being God’s Son, He is a person—a human being containing flesh and blood just like me and you. I have been disoriented by the reality that He is a teacher with a highly controversial message. I have been brought to tears by the reality that I feel safer when I see Him as a distant diety that I can throw a few prayers at every now and then, rather than also recognizing Him as a revolutionary Rabbi begging me to take up my cross and follow Him.
The past 6 years have been incredibly formative in regard to how I see Jesus. My wife and I agreed that we would never be the same after living among homeless neighbors—men, women, and children—at Joshua Station. We moved into this incredible place looking to “minister to the poor.” I put that line in quotes because it represents one of the many ways my lens has been transformed by our experience here. I no longer see what I do as ministering “to” anyone. I see my work more as participating in the radical movement that Jesus invites us all into—the scandalous act of loving those our society would rather forget about and joining in the fight for justice alongside of them.
If that last line made you a tad uncomfortable, rest assured, it makes me uncomfortable too. That is why worshiping Jesus is so much easier to me than following Him. When I worship Jesus, I divide my week up and apportion a day or two for intentionally praying, singing, and learning about Him. The rest of my week is then dedicated to the separate “normal” stuff of work, family, etc.
The problem here is the lack of evidence that this is God’s desire for us. Just look at the radical way that “The Way” impacted every avenue of the Disciple’s lives. It seems that a difficult and radical question that we should ask might be “What does it look like for me to follow Jesus here and now?” Your answer will (and should) differ from mine, because your context is not my own.
I have learned over the years that following Jesus at Joshua Station means a lot more than praying for my kids, although I do pray for my kids. It means a lot more than teaching my kids about how much Jesus loves them, although I do that as well. Following Jesus at Joshua Station has meant that I allow myself to sit in the discomfort of listening to our families’ struggles through social ridicule, economic hardship, and systemic oppression. Following Jesus here has meant that I engage much more in politics as I see the affects of policy decisions much more directly now than I used to. Following Jesus at Joshua Station has taken me to rallies on behalf of Immigration Reform, Black Lives Matter Die-Ins, and many other truly uncomfortable places.
These places are uncomfortable, because they are real. I guess that might be the main point I am trying to make. Exclusively worshiping Jesus doesn’t require me to recognize how relevant He is to my world. Following Jesus, on the other hand, never lets me forget it. Exclusively worshiping Jesus has allowed me to think of all His teachings as spiritual in nature and not applicable to the world around me. Following Jesus reveals the spirit of non-violent resistance at the heart of the movement He sparked. Exclusively worshiping Jesus helps me to remember Him “back there”. Following Jesus requires me to see Him in the midst of the struggles directly in front of me today.
Those of you who know me know that I am not saying, “Don’t Worship Jesus!” Instead I am trying to be vulnerable with you about a radical shift that has taken place over the years. I still do—and will continue to—worship Jesus. I also do believe that Jesus’ teachings are deeply spiritual and should be interacted with through that understanding. But I am incapable of reading the Scriptures today without seeing how this flesh and blood Man disrupted the system around Him that benefited the rich and displaced the poor. I am incapable of reading them without noticing how those around Him would have been deeply uncomfortable with His message of non-violent resistance to the system of oppression at play—especially those who were comfortable within that system, like the Tax Collectors, Priests, Pharisees, etc. I am incapable of reading them without remembering that Jesus never once said, “Worship Me”, but He is recorded as saying “Follow Me” 23 times.
It is my prayer that as we continue to worship Jesus as God’s Son, we also begin to feel the deep invitation to Follow Him as disruptive Rabbi.
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