On the first Sunday of every month I climb the stairs to Room 243 to teach our newcomers class. My assignment is to talk about “a Christian way of being human,” and I like to begin with an emphasis on the word way.
Some people will tell you that to be Christian you have to believe certain things. You have to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. You have to believe that he rose from the dead. You have to believe that he’s coming again. But have you noticed that, when Jesus called those first disciples, he didn’t mention any of those things? He just said, “Follow me,” and those fishermen dropped their nets and followed.
Christianity begins with a commitment—not to a set of beliefs, but to a person—to Jesus. It starts for us when we drop whatever we’re doing to follow him. Those first disciples were able to do that literally. It’s harder for us, but it’s not impossible. One of the best ways I’ve found to follow is to read the four Gospels closely—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—to look at the things Jesus does there and to listen to the things he says. In this way I learn who Jesus is and what he’s up to, and the word disciple, at its root, means “learner.” A disciple is a kind of apprentice who watches the master, who learns his craft and studies his moves. As we follow Jesus through the Gospels we can do the same.
One of the things we will notice if we do that is that Jesus spends a lot of time talking about the Kingdom of God. In the four Gospels combined he makes reference to the Kingdom some 120 times. And when his disciples ask him to teach them to pray he says, “Pray for this: pray that God’s Kingdom would come, and God’s will would be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Being a disciple in our time means being an answer to that prayer; it means working alongside Jesus to bring heaven to earth.
How do we do that? It’s simple: we look around for anything that doesn’t look like heaven and we go to work there. And the good news is that we get to look through our own eyes. The thing that breaks our heart may be the very thing God is calling us to do. That was certainly true for Jesus.
I think this is the “Christian way of being human.” It’s not just believing things about Jesus (although I find that the more time I spend with him the more I believe about him). It’s believing in Jesus. It’s following him so closely and so passionately that you begin to do the things he would do, and say the things he would say, and love the things he would love. It’s becoming more and more like him until people—even some of the people who know you best—begin to say,
“You know, you remind me of someone…”