IN HIS STEPS

AS I HAVE continued to mull over what authentic Christian living means, my thoughts turned to the words of the apostle Peter:

    To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example,             that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21, New International Version).

Those words reminded me of the Christian classic, In His Steps, written by Charles Sheldon in the late nineteenth century. In it he relates the story of Reverend Henry Maxwell who challenges his upper middle class congregants to live as Jesus would live, asking themselves before they did anything, “What would Jesus do?”

Over the following twelve months the impact upon those who accepted the call, upon the church and community was outstandingly revolutionary. The impact of such a challenge illustrated vividly what authentic Christian living really means. There would be a similar response today if all church people accepted such a call.

Several issues struck me about this story. Individuals were encouraged to respond to this call for themselves in their unique situations without basing their decisions on what others thought and without judging others for how they may or may not have responded.   Christians were challenged to consider Jesus in every aspect of their lives: their work ethic, relationships, finances, community and church involvement. The issue delved deep into the core of one’s faith, just as it would for us today.

It is no secret that I struggle with today’s institutionalised church. So much of what I have experienced has been detrimental to my mental, emotional and spiritual well being—it is impossible to share the full extent of what all but destroyed me, so disturbing was its enormity. And yet, despite all I have been through, my faith in God has remained strong. I value significant interaction with fellow believers; I crave meaningful Christian conversation, and I thrive on solid godly teaching.

Since picking up In His Steps, and as I seek to live each day for him, I have begun to ask myself the question—“What would Jesus do?”  This is just the beginning of a fresh phase in my life; one I trust will become life enriching for myself and for those around me.

                       To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you,                                                        leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

God in the midst

I LOVE the Christian Church – the Body of Christ. But I do not like church.

What a contradiction that is!

Ever since I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, I had been actively involved in the local church. My whole life revolved around the church; I believed that was what it meant to be a Christian, a follower of Christ. Then, in the 1990s, my world turned upside down – and I left the church.

I never left God. In fact, in my isolation from Christian fellowship he became my Rock, my Shepherd, the Lover of my soul, my Guide, my God. Without him I would never have come through the decades of intense psychotherapy needed to deal with deep psychological trauma from a problematic past, and become the person I am today.

In time, I tried to return to church. For years I struggled to connect with a local congregation. I went to churches of all denominational persuasions, staying at some for weeks, months; leaving others after my initial visit and one even mid-way through the first service. The whole process was excruciatingly painful; my church visits often ended in tears. I have finally accepted that, for me, trying to find a contemporary church of the twenty-first century is a futile exercise. Not only do I not fit into that scene, I find so much of church culture incongruent with the teachings of Christ, and with New Testament examples of Christian fellowship.

At present, church for me is meeting with one or two people at a time, talking with them in a mutually supportive way about God and what he means to us. It is often in these informal ways that we come to better understand one another, connect in significant ways, be an encouragement to each other and together grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). I am sure this is what Jesus meant when he said:  For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20).