No Admirers

Lent 2012
Path of Restoration

by Marjorie George 

Judas was an admirer of Christ. At the beginning of his ministry, Christ had many admirers, Judas among them; but at the end he had only followers. Judas apparently was taken with the idea of a Messiah, but Judas had his own plan for how the revealing of the Kingdom should come about. Judas was not willing to follow where Christ was leading.  

In his essay “Followers, Not Admirers,” (in Bread and Wine, Readings for Lent) Soren Kierkegaard points out that Christ “never asked for admirers, worshippers, or adherents.” Christ was interested in disciples. “It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for,” says Kierkegaard.

Contemporary writer Brian McLaren tells of interviewing Dr. Peter Senge at a conference for Christian pastors (in Finding our Way Again). Senge was pondering with his audience about the rising interest in “spirituality” – not necessarily Christianity — in recent years. One of the most popular categories of book sales these days is books on spirituality, “particularly books on Buddhism,” Senge noted.  “Why do you think that is?” McLaren asked. To which Senge replied, “I think it’s because Buddhism presents itself as a way of life, and Christianity presents itself as a system of belief.”

But Christ was not pushing systems theory. He was not born clutching a Charter for the Church in his little baby hands. “I have come that you might have life,” he says to us (John 10:10).

We spend a lot of time during Lent looking at our sins. And that is good. I need to recognize and confess my sins every single day of my life and twice a day during Lent. I need to vigorously examine where I have let myself grow apart from God over and over again, because I fall to all those scintillating temptations over and over again. But if I stop there, I am only admiring the process; after the sin, after the recognition, after the repentance, after accepting the forgiveness, fresh-scrubbed and beaming brightly, I need to participate in the new life that Christ offers his followers. Not just think about it, not merely study and discuss it – I need to begin to actually step into and live the life of a follower of Christ.

How do I even begin that journey? I have found that my relationship with God in Christ is strengthened in direct proportion to the amount of time, purpose, and energy I am willing to invest in it. God is standing at the front door; I really do have to turn on the lights, open the door, invite him in, and spend some time with him before I can begin to know why he has come to my house and where I am supposed to go from here. He will be no less God left standing on the porch, and a meteor will probably not fall on my roof to punish me if I fail to act. But unless I am willing to put some effort into the relationship, I only am aware that an oh-so-lovely abstraction hovers near the door.

Christ came into the world to save it, not instruct it, says Kierkegaard. At the same time, Christ came to be the pattern, to leave footsteps for those who would follow him. We cannot step into the footprints from a distance. This is a time for putting on our walking shoes and joining the journey; otherwise we are left in the bleachers just admiring the parade.

Marjorie George

Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine. Reach her at marjorie.george@dwtx.org or leave a comment below. 

Art: “I Need You Now” by Arnoldo Romero.  Romero is one of several artists from around the Diocese of West Texas whose work is part of a special exhibit, “Lent through the Eyes of the Artist,” that will hang at Cathedral House Gallery at the Bishop Jones Center in San Antonio until April 7.  The public is invited to visit Mon. through Fri., 9 am to 5 pm.  Address is 111 Torcido, San Antonio TX 78209

 

6 thoughts on “No Admirers”

  1. I’m behind in my reading, but wanted you to know that this is being shared with my Bible study group. Our topic is Becoming More that a Good Bible Study Girl, by Lysa Terkeurst, and it’s spot on! Thanks.

  2. Marjorie, your piece reminds me of the difference between a tourist and a pilgrim. A tourist, no matter how interested or devout, walks the way and observes the scene from a safe remove. The pilgrim, on the other hand, is engaged in the struggle of the journey at the level of the heart as she follows Christ. The difference is in intent and degree. I like to use the analogy of the hen and the pig. If a hen contributes an egg for your breakfast, she is rather like the tourist because she operates from a safe distance, but if a pig contributes bacon for your breakfast, the pig’s participation is a sacrificial act.
    Betty McNallen

  3. If by “giving our lives to Christ” one means to accept Jesus Christ as our savior and to love him with our whole body and soul and to have faith that through his sacrifice for us that we will be raised into his heavenly kingdom, then I agree with what is being said here. I do believe that Christ wants us to live in a more Christ like manner which I do not think we can help but do if we truly believe in him in the manner described. But if we only focus on the ways we can live a better life without truly believing in the good news message of our Lord, then I fear we will fall well short on judgement day.

    1. Ed
      I think you are absolutely correct. Anyone can determine to live a “better life.” For the Christian, that life is based on the good news of the gospel not only that we will have life in abundance, but that the life continues to be lived with God in heaven for eternity. Claiming to live the life of a Christain, I think, is not to simply admire the idea of Christianity but to live every day as a conscious follower of Christ. We are able to do this not under our own power but by the power of the Holy Spirit and through Christ who lives in us. – Marjorie

  4. Oh, yes, Marjorie! A way of life. I think the reason the mainline churches are waning is because we have forgotten what it is like to give Christ our whole lives, daily.

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