The Impossibility of Following Jesus?

As Americans, we love our inalienable rights.  They make up the American way of life that we cherish so dearly.  To speak against them is almost, if not certainly, to speak against America, which would make us, well, un-American.

Yet we know that these rights have their dark side as well.  When these rights are pursued along with the individualistic value of self-governance, we can do everything from aborting killing millions of unborn babies to waging a drone war that is harming killing others.  That’s because at the end of the day, our rights, our wealth, our power, our sovereign rule is what matters most.  So whatever is expedient in defending and exercising these rights is justified eventually, somehow, someway…

Then there’s Jesus.  We love him.  At least most of us do.  Jesus is especially popular this time of year.  His story, especially the cute little baby story we have extrapolated and edited from the Gospels, is a comfort to us.

The promise of salvation Jesus offers soothes our senses and assuages the concerns we have about death as we grow older and begin to realize our own mortality.  And so we sing:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!                                           Let earth receive her King…

But this King doesn’t let us off the hook so easily.  He demands that we follow him into his kingdom by denying ourselves and journeying with him to the cross as we carry our own cross (cf. Mk 8:34ff).  And Jesus makes no exceptions!

This is where we get hung up and stumble.  That is because this call to deny ourselves demands that we put aside our rights and our American way of life.  It’s not because the American way of life is inherently all wrong, though it often yields much wrong (as pointed out above).  It’s because the American way of life is a way of self-governing (“We the people…”) and following Jesus is about allowing God to reign over us instead.

So we have a choice to make?  Yet as long as our American way of life is of more value than the kingdom of God, following Jesus is an impossibility.

Here’s the problem and the reason I am writing this: As I scroll through my Facebook feed, I get the feeling that some, perhaps many, American Christians value their American way of life more than they do kingdom of God.

I hope I’m wrong.

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8 responses to “The Impossibility of Following Jesus?

  1. Amen, brother. You are not wrong. I have the same Facebook problem – or did until I did some “house” cleaning. The horrific event in Newtown revealed a gaping rift in the soul of Americans. I pray people will come to their senses, but in the conversations I have had it appears that the Constitution trumps the inspired word of God every time. I appreciate your words.

  2. Interesting post. I got here via a link in a tweet. I agree with your overall concept, even if I struggle with always keeping myself in my place.

    I’m left wondering, however, about the implication that the Constitution runs counter to God’s kingdom. I’m never heard this suggested. Further, it’s generally accepted that we should submit to the government (Rom 13), where it doesn’t violate God’s law (though it seems quite the gray area in where we draw that line).

    Similarly, I would assume your FB feed reference has much to do with the 2nd amendment. Do you feel the defense of this amendment is counter to seeking His kingdom?

    • Jeremy,

      I don’t think the American constitution (or any nation’s constitution) is inherently evil. However, the application of the constitution can and does result in certain injustices. For example, I regard abortion as an immoral/unethical practice even though it is supported by the constitution. The same can be said regarding the 2nd amendment and the right to bear arms. I am not absolutely opposed to the right to bear arms (as I even own several rifles and shotguns) and the right for people to possess fire-arms for the purpose of hunting, competition shooting, personal protection, etc… However, in my estimation it seems that the current understanding of the 2nd amendment has created a situation that is allowing evil/injustice to flourish and with some better laws regulating the use of firearms (much like states regulate the use of vehicles), a few more innocent lives might be saved from harm. Yet some Christians seem absolutely opposed to any reconsideration and possible changes to the current gun laws. That seems like a hinderance to the interests of justice which is a hinderance to the interests of God’s kingdom.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  3. I believe you are basing your assumptions on a false premise. Correct me if I’m wrong. You seem to be saying that if you vocally support the U.S. Constitution (and God forbid even the 2nd amendment), that by necessity you don’t put Jesus first.

    You should listen to one of Phil Robertson’s sermons. He is one of the most effective gospel preachers of our time. He and his family have baptized thousands of people over the past several years. I don’t know any person living today who is more passionate about Jesus, the gospel, and His kingdom than Phil Robertson.

    At each speaking engagement, at churches, at arenas, anywhere he speaks, he speaks passionately about the U.S. Constitution, the founding principles, and quotes many of the founder themselves. I also know him as the most passionate person I know about our country and it’s constitution.

    It is simply not true that one must choose to be loyal to country at the expense of being loyal to Jesus and the gospel.,

    • No that is not exactly what I am saying. There is nothing inherently wrong with the American Constitution. However, some of the ways it is applied does run counter to the gospel. For example, let’s take the first amendment. It is on the basis of the first amendment that our country has legally decided a woman’s rights outweigh the welfare of her unborn child and therefore she has the legal right to abort her pregnancy. I believe abortion is a sin and I assume you do as well but some Christians want to insist that this first amendment right trumps the gospel, which is why they can justify abortion. On the other hand, other Christians speak and act as though defending their rights (the American dream) trumps the gospel, which is why they can champion the idea of waging a drone war that is killing other innocent people.

      What I am saying is that when the defense of our constitutional rights trumps Jesus’ call to deny ourselves and follow him by picking up our own cross (which puts aside our own wants and desires for the mission of God), then it becomes impossible to follow Jesus. For we cannot follow Jesus when our own wants and desires are more important than the kingdom of God.

      This can happen with any one of the constitutional amendments and a whole lot of other stuff we prioritize in our lives. It calls for constant discernment as to whether we are placing __________ as more important than the kingdom of God.

      Does that make more sense?

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

      P.S., I appreciate the way you engage by seeking to correctly understand in your comments.

  4. Rex, I would beg to differ with you slightly, although it may be more a matter of semantics. I do believe there is something *inherently* wrong with the Constitution, and that error empowers the ones that you enumerated.

    The *inherent* error in the Constitution is that it is based on a humanistic foundation, “We the people.” It is not founded on Kingdom principles. It is bottom-up polity, not top-down. It was specifically written that way to exclude the kind of theocratic language that dominated the European governments of the time (God commanded/chose such and such to be our leader). By specifically removing God as the source and power of our government (he was included, but only as the reason that we have our “inalienable” rights) they *inherently* created the problems you mentioned – pornography, abortion, the use of super-secret drones to execute suspected militants, etc, etc.

    Anything that is created and defended as a matter of human relationships that excludes the supreme Kingdom of God and his Son has inherent error. So, I most strenuously disagree with Royce’s comment that it is not true that one must make a choice as to whether to support the Constitution or Jesus. I believe it is absolutely true – I can respect my leaders and submit to their authority as far as Scripture and the teachings of Jesus allow, but I must cease any allegiance that compromises my ultimate allegiance to the Kingdom of God. We must pay careful attention to the language of the New Testament. “Respect” and “submit” do not mean “agree with, love, or defend.” It means I pay my taxes, stop at red lights, and take out insurance on my car.

    You are on the high ground in this conversation. Do not surrender it.

    • Paul,

      You are right and I stand corrected. I have, in the past, criticized the constitution for it being based on a “we the people” power. I guess when I was referring to it not being inherently wrong, I was meaning such things as the right to free speech, the right to equal representation under the law, etc…

      Thanks for visiting the blog and joining the conversation.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

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