Just recently I started going through Brian McClaren’s book, We Make the Road by Walking, with a few friends. It’s a weekly study that McClaren describes more or less as an introduction to the faith that he wishes he’d had. I think if I had read it a few years ago, around the time I started this blog, I would have gotten even more out of it, but I am grateful for the things he’s mentioned so far.
We just completed the third week, and the message was about patterns and ideologies that shape our lives and comparing them to the pattern of living and ideology that God presents to us through Jesus. The more I think about this, the more I am grateful for its practical reminder that Jesus not only reveals the heart of God to us, but he reveals a kind of life that God wants us to live. Ideology and pattern of living are both excellent things to look for while reading the Gospels, but I think the real thing to look for is how God reveals himself–his character, his desires, his heart–through Jesus. That said, I thought it would be useful to list different ideas that make up the pattern of living/ideology revealed in the four different accounts of Jesus’ life story. I am too lazy to look up each of these by scripture referencee. This is just a list from the top of my head:
Philosophical, more cerebral concepts and ideas include:
- The first shall be last and the last shall be first.
- The truth will set us free.
- It’s God’s great pleasure to give us the kingdom.
- The Kingdom of God is at hand.
- Store up “treasures in heaven” rather than temporary ones on earth.
- Don’t be afraid.
- Live openly.
- Stay true.
- Forgive others, again and again and again. Be in a constant state of forgiveness.
Maybe more tangible, “down to earth” examples of Jesus’ pattern of living include:
- The “least of these” matter to God.
- We should look inward before we judge others.
- We should keep from being angry at other individuals or lusting after them.
- We should be simple in our responses: “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”
- Reward comes by sacrifice.
- Resist trying to get attention, especially from powerful people.
- Take the “lowest seat” and wait for someone to call us up to the higher ones.
- Live generously; give more than people ask for.
- Resist worrying about material things.
- Expect trial and tribulation.
- Feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty.
- We should open ourselves up to being around people who make us uncomfortable.
- Turn the other cheek.
- Love enemies/pray for persecutors.
- God wants to heal us.
- God wants us to know that he is generous and loving.
- God wants to take care of us.
- God wants us to take care of each other.
- Loving other people is how we reveal God to the world.
- Be careful that we don’t try to exclude people from God’s message because they are sinners or children or “less than.”
- Keep an eye out for the rejected and the oppressed.
- Seek God constantly.
- Expect great things from God.
Each chapter in McClaren’s book concludes with a list of questions, and I especially liked the question from the last chapter where he asks, “How would your life change if you lived by Jesus’ pattern or logos?”
I know from experience that there is a lightness when we “let go of our lives,” entrusting them to God, and trusting him with decisions. I think if I was able to adopt Jesus’ way of life, I would be less attached to material things, more interested in the people around me, and more centered. I would be more generous because I would see that money and the things it can buy don’t last, but they can be means to building lasting, healthy relationships with others. Lastly, I would have more confidence that the things I worry about can’t destroy me, and that ultimately, God wants good things for me even if those things aren’t part of my present situation.