I remember one Sunday when a pastor implored the congregation to avoid sinful attitudes and behaviors by “walking more closely with Jesus”. During the Q&A that followed the teaching via text messages read aloud by the pastor, someone wrote,
“I have been a Christian for several years. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about walking with Jesus but I really don’t know what that means or how to know if I’m actually doing it right. How do I walk with Jesus?”
The panel assembled to answer the questions fumbled for a succinct answer. “Well,” said one, “You need to read your Bible so you know God and grow in His Word.”
Another said, “Just pray about it, Dude.Prayer brings us closer to Jesus.”
Though both answers were true, neither left the man feeling like he understood how to walk with Jesus any more clearly than before he’d asked the question.
Recently I was with a friend whom I know to be a deeply committed Christian for more than 30 years. She was sharing about some upset she had with a coworker.
There was a fairly long history of disagreements and avoidances between the two. According to my friend, the coworker "has a difficult personality and is probably suffering from mental illness …which makes it impossible for her to see herself or her behaviors rationally."
Walking with Jesus through conflict
It seems there is going to be a company retreat soon and the two are slated to share a hotel room. My friend is not looking forward to it. She said she plans to “make nice” and make the best of it, so long as the coworker doesn't step out of line. If the coworker crosses the line, however, she plans to send her packing, lock stock and barrel to the lobby where she could rent a separate room at her own expense. She felt wholly justified and even seemed a bit proud of her resolution to gain the upper hand in the situation.
“Oh, I’ll be on my best behavior but if she starts something, I’m not going to put up with it! I’m going to put her in her place and that’s just for starters!” she said.
When she got to the end of her diatribe she glanced at me. She must have seen the look of concern on my face because she asked me if I thought she was wrong. “Well,” I began, “I suppose that’s one way to handle it.”
“What do you mean” she asked.
“I suppose you can make a good case that you’re right and she’s off her rocker, but… you are a Christian and that’s supposed to mean something in situations like this.”
She contended that Jesus wouldn’t blame her one bit because of how completely awful the coworker had been.
“I’m not sure Jesus would see it that way at all.” I said. “Let’s say you’re right about her having mental illness. How would Jesus want you to treat someone who has mental illness? Or, let’s say she’s a rotten person and takes issue with everything you say for sport. What would Jesus do with a person like that?
I could see I was making my friend uncomfortable... and I wasn’t enjoying it at all myself. But my desire to see her grow in Christ was greater than my urge to give her the approval she was hoping for.
So, I continued,
I could see my friend was annoyed. “I’m sorry I’m making this harder for you." I said, " I really want you to consider that your heart in the matter might be preventing you from seeing things the way Jesus does."
"Do you remember the story about the night Jesus was betrayed? The Roman soldiers surrounded Jesus and treated Him like a criminal. Peter was outraged and felt completely justified when he cut off a soldier’s ear. To Peter’s surprise, Jesus wasn’t happy with what he’d had done at all. Jesus rebuked Peter then put the soldier’s ear back where it belonged and healed it."
"You think your attitude toward your coworker is justified. In reality your attitude toward your coworker isn’t at all how Jesus taught us to handle our disputes with others. By any human measure you may be right as rain. But if what seems “right” doesn’t line up with the examples Jesus set for us then it isn’t something a follower of Christ should do."
If Jesus never did what you’re about to do, then you are walking in a direction that leads away from Him. I’m sorry, but it’s just that simple.”
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. ... Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36
It isn’t that following Christ is hard. It’s that we are terribly prone to believing we are following Him even when we are not. We have a persistent point of view that leads us to believe that if it seems right or fair or just to us then we’re confident it would seem so to Jesus too.
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34
Walking and following are verbs. They are action steps. There is nothing passive about following Jesus.
1. First we really do need to read the Bible. The Bible was given to us for this purpose and is the only way we can examine the life of Jesus and how He interacted with the world and the people around Him. We cannot be a reliable judge of what Jesus would do if we don’t take the time to really learn what He did.
Compare our steps with His steps.
Compare our attitudes with His attitude.
Train ourselves to recognize His voice.
2.We must literally ask Him to lead us. Daily.
It’s hard to follow Jesus if you don’t know where He’s going or how He wants to use you along the way. We didn’t sign on to a story about a guy who died 2000 years ago. Jesus is alive in us! We ask Him to transform our hearts then use our lives to transform the world around us. That’s the job! How can He do that without our participation?
3. We must humbly search for and acknowledge the discrepancies between His character and our own and adjust accordingly. It isn’t enough to be a believer. We must work to become like Jesus.
“If we say we have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” 1 John 1:6
4. Our job is to make sure others see Jesus when they look at us regardless of the circumstance. This, unfortunately, will require us to bow low no matter how “right” we think we are. A LOT.
How can we be a light in this world if we don't hold it above our pride? Be humble!
“He has told you o mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
When we do these things we close the distance between what is human and what is holy. This is when we experience the joy of communion with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. These are the precious moments when we simply bask in our beautiful friendship with Him. These are the times we feel most secure and sure-footed in our walk with our Savior. These are the days we feel so close to Him we can sense which way He’s leading and easily go along without stumbling.
Though we may desire to be with Jesus this way every day; days like this are sandwiched between all the days we are anything but sure-footed and we stumble with every step.
In His love and service,