I went out for sushi with a friend. She’s the kind of friend I love talking with and who always leaves me feeling encouraged. During this particular conversation, I noticed something interesting:
Whenever she’d say, “I know I should…,” what followed would sound spiritual and “Christian”—like things I grew up hearing at church. But strangely, it wouldn’t sound like anything I’ve read about Jesus’ life in the Gospels. And when she’d apologetically say, “But I decided to…,” I’d be reminded of passages throughout Scripture and I’d see parallels between her life choices and the life Jesus modeled for us.
My friend is following Jesus. And in order to do that, she has to reject the patterns of this world—including ways the Church has adopted and spiritualized these patterns.
Isn’t that weird? At least, shouldn’t it be? And shouldn’t this be cause for alarm?
We’re followers / disciples / apprentices of Jesus. Whatever terminology you like to use, we’re to strive to look more and more like Him. But sometimes we confuse the way of Jesus with church culture. Church culture doesn’t always look and sound like Jesus. In fact, sometimes it’s conforming to church culture that prevents us from becoming more like Jesus. (What a brilliant way for the enemy to keep the Church from actually living like the Body of Christ! “Make it sound spiritual and put Jesus’ name on it, then they’ll accept it without question!”)
I want my heart to be aligned with Jesus’ heart, to look and sound like Him, to reflect Him every way I can. Unfortunately, that means there are times when I must make choices that go against the culture of the Church (or at least the American Church). And that means people who know church culture better than actual Jesus will accuse me of things that sound a lot like the things Jesus was accused of.
• What if we accepted Jesus’ invitation to learn from Him, diving deep into Scripture with humility in the fact that we don’t always get everything right and we still have more to learn?
• What if we investigated whether or not each supposed truth we label “biblical” is actually in the Bible and in alignment with the heart of God?
• What if we chose to follow Jesus—actually follow the words He spoke and the way He lived as it’s revealed in Scripture rather than what some people or our church culture tells us is “biblical”?
So here’s my challenge to you: The next time you find yourself thinking, “I feel like as a Christian I should…,” ask these two questions:
1. Does this thing I feel I should believe/think/do/be resemble what Jesus lived and taught? (If you can’t find it in Jesus’ life and teachings or anywhere else in Scripture, that’s a big red flag. So be specific. Where is it in Scripture? And if you find a verse, zoom out and look at the context of the chapter, book, and whole of Scripture. Is that really what that passage is saying? Or has it been misunderstood or taken out of context?)
2. What is the Spirit saying to me? Could it be that what the Spirit is saying to me contradicts something I’ve been taught but is actually in alignment with the way of Jesus as revealed in Scripture?
One more thing: Live this out in community. Find people who will ask these questions with you, lovingly call you out when you don’t live them, and aggressively encourage you when you do.
5 thoughts on “When Following Jesus Requires Questioning”
You just put words to what my heart has been feeling… ❤️ Thank you.
Thank you for your heart Esther. I totally agree. We can so easily confuse church culture with what God’s Word actually says.
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What you said makes a lot of sense. Your post reminds me of the Berean Community in Acts 17:10-15. When I was a Christian, the director of a summer camp I went to decades ago said something at the end of the camp that always stuck with me. He said “It’s not how high you jump but how straight you walk when you hit the ground.” We tend to make two mistakes and your post touched on both of them: 1) We don’t prioritize personal study of scripture, 2) We devalue the church community, Or, and more concerning, 3) We keep the two estranged from each other. Obviously the answer escapes me given I tapped out to some thorns and thistle or was eaten by a bird or perhaps I just went away sad. Anyway, I like keeping up with your posts to see how you are doing. Thank you for not collapsing under the pressure and struggles you and your husband had to endure and not surrendering to self pity which does not liberate you from your pain but rather accustoms your mind to it. I hope you and Daniel are doing well.
Interesting post. I feel the same way many times. When I read the Bible and look at the church, the two seem to be so different. It is confusing because we supposedly have the same goals and the same faith and I feel like I have to agree with them and do what they say. But we should always compare the teachigs and actions of the church to the Bible and do what God says.
Thanks for sharing.