The Best Word for Following Jesus

Following Jesus was never supposed to be Emma Higgs quote

In the latest post in her “Faith in the Fog” series, Emma Higgs writes:

Love is not the easy option

The conservative evangelical voice in my head still occasionally wonders if this is wishful thinking. An attempt to soften the Truth, to make it all sound nicer and more palatable.

It sounds suspiciously like wishy-washy, fluffy, hippy nonsense doesn’t it?

Well, that depends on how you define love. The Biblical accounts of the life and death of Jesus are still, for me, the ultimate definition of love.

Sacrificial. Radically inclusive. Painful. Dirty.

Real love can bring life in all its fullness, but it is far from easy.

You know what is easy? Signing a doctrinal statement to show that you’re a real Christian. Asserting an intellectual belief in a particular theory of the afterlife. Those things aren’t exactly difficult.

But reorienting your entire life towards radical, sacrificial, Earth-transforming love – now that takes some commitment.

And eventually that leads her to the words quoted in the meme.

Click through to read the rest of the post.

I also shared the following thought with a friend on Facebook when he said that he had found the warnings about acknowleding errors in the Bible being a “slippery slope” towards atheism:

I would suggest that the “slippery slope” is a self-fulfilling prophecy of fundamentalism. It claims that Christianity is about every bit of ancient cosmology assumed by biblical authors being factual, and it claims that Christian faith is believing those things despite counter evidence. And so it not only situates fundamentalist religious people at the top of a slippery slope, but it creates ideal conditions for people to trip and find themselves quickly at the bottom.

The problem is that their way of defining Christianity and faith are not self-evidently true. Not by a long shot.

I have blogged before about the notion of a “slippery slope.” In light of Higgs’ challenge, I would add here that this fundamentalist view makes the danger all about changing one’s mind, and not about the real risk that we will compromise our Christian faith by not loving as fully as we are called to, by not serving as selflessly or sacrificing as fully as the example of Jesus challenges us to.

But as Higgs points out, that path is much harder, and so fundamentalists prefer the easier path of believing ancient assumptions, rejecting the conclusions of scientists and historians, and making it all about things that, however hard it may be to endure the ridicule they rightly bring upon the fundamentalist, are still far easier and more comfortable than the radical love that is supposed to be the definition of following Jesus.

Of course, the fundamentalist will find this way of approaching things unacceptable, because it does not make the clear distinction between Christians and everyone else that they consider so important. But those who have been paying attention to Jesus’ words, such as when he talks about many coming from the east and the west to join the Israelite patriarchs at the messianic banquet in the kingdom of God, will already know that this too is not a departure from Jesus’ teaching, but a defining characteristic thereof.

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  • John MacDonald

    I don’t know that there is any reason to treat passages that portray Jesus as being some sort of an ethical genius or ethical superhero as historical, since there would have been reasons for the writers to invent these pericopes to portray Jesus as paradigmatically ethical, or at least invent the ethical connotations of these pericopes that we find in scripture (like the “you who is without sin should cast the first stone” event).

    • Nick G

      There is also considerable evidence against any such portrayal in the gospels themselves: his declaration that one must hate one’s family and self in order to follow him, his brutal advice to a bereaved man to “leave the dead to bury the dead”, his initial response to the Canaanite woman, in which he compared Gentiles to dogs.
      Edited to add: And of course the blood-curdling threats to all those who failed to accept his absolute authority.

    • Tuna Fish #5

      why does it make sense that the writers would have reason to do so?
      Because they gained access to continuing income from his estate?
      Because it improved revenue from sales of their writings?
      To increase the Facebook “likes” on their webpage?
      Why take a story about a somewhat above average guy and embellish it? Why even document such a story? Where’s the profit?

  • Michael Wilson

    Isn’t saying, I don’t embrace a static set of beliefs, I embrace countercultural inclusion, radical forgiveness, ultimate sacrifice, and upsidedown priorities, oxymorononic ? Its a conundrum I know, a paradox. I mean is her commitment to radical forgiveness NOT static? She is open to changing her faith in it?