“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me”
“The compassionate life,” says Henri Nouwen, “is the life of downward mobility . . . the descending way of Jesus. It is the way toward the poor, the suffering, the marginal, the prisoners, the refugees, the lonely, the hungry, the dying, the tortured, the homeless—toward all who ask for compassion.” Jesus invites the rich young ruler—and all others who read this red-letter story—to free themselves from the talons of consumer-driven idolatry and to follow him on the descending way of compassion. It is good to remember this invitation is in response to the rich man’s question: “What must I do to gain eternal life?”
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Anthony de Mello, author of The Song of the Bird, tells a parable called Searching in the Wrong Place:
A neighbor found Nasruddin on hands and knees.
“What are you searching for, Mullah?”
Both men got on their knees to search. After a while the neighbor said, “Where did you lose it?”
“Good Lord! Then why are you searching here?”
“Because it’s brighter here.”
Some would say: “If you want to Experience God, look around and see where God is moving—the place where the light is brightest—and join God there.” Perhaps it would be better to embrace the shadows in our own souls, observe where darkness is looming in our neighborhoods, and then take the light of Christ into the darkness.
“If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice.”
Following Jesus presents us with the same dilemma E.B. White wrote about: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” The art of Christian discipleship is learning to serve the world and savor the world simultaneously. Follow Jesus today and he’ll show you how.
“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “When Christ calls a [man or woman] he bids them come and die.” It’s not the best pick–up line . . . “come and die” . . . but it is the great proposal Jesus offers. He invites us to trade our self–suffocating narcissism for a life defined by self–sacrificing love and grace. Following Jesus and learning the ways of his upside–down kingdom, (where the first are last, the poor are favored, the weak are strong, and the oppressed are set free) is a life worth living for; and Bonhoeffer knew first hand, it was a life worth dying for.
“Come, follow me . . .”
Jesus didn’t invite people to join religious institutions, he invited us to follow him! To go where he is going—into the heart of God’s kingdom—and to learn from him how to be our truest selves while helping other’s experience the goodness of God’s heart.
Some Christians believe secular culture is hostile to Christianity. Gregory Boyle, author of Barking to the Choir, disagrees. Boyle says, “Our culture is hostile only to the inauthentic living of the gospel. It sniffs out hypocrisy everywhere and knows when Christians aren’t taking seriously, what Jesus took seriously.”
Larry Stoess is an author, public speaker, and urban church planter. He loves telling stories about how dreaming with God will empower people to make old and broken things new again. Larry and a band of friends founded the Church of the Promise in Louisville's Portland neighborhood; The Table, a pay-what-you-can community café; and Promise Housing Plus, a non-profit construction company. He has written about their experience of dreaming with God in his new book: Think Red.