It has to mean something…right?

Sandals - follow me - httpclub.dx.comforumsforums.dxthreadid.1249031As I think about the theme, “Come and see,” used for Siloam’s Community Health Immersion program, I am struck by what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  It is a journey more than a destination.  The Siloam Institute’s work with students and residents is largely to teach them to embrace the journey as they become practitioners of whole-person care.  

Below, I share an insightful reflection on John 1: (29-34) 35-42 by Reverend Chris Adams.

Chris writes…
Many years ago a friend taught me an interesting statistic about two words in our Bible.  Many of us call ourselves Christians to describe our faith.  We use this term with those we share faith with and also we use this term with others who do not.  The word Christian in Greek, Χριστιανός, only occurs in all the New Testament three (3) times.  That’s it.  Just three.

However, the word we see for the first time in John’s gospel today, in Greek μαθητής, occurs two hundred sixty three (263) times in the New Testament.  That’s a lot more than three.  For my friend, this had great significance.  “It has to mean something… Right?” he would say.

The word disciple means to follow, as in a pupil with a teacher.  It’s an action word.  In the ancient near east, often a disciple would literally walk so closely behind their teacher that the dust from the teacher’s sandals would get on the disciple.  Hence the reference to that by Jesus.  A Christian is simple a descriptor, a designation that one follows the faith so named.  The words are clearly related, but there is not the same sense of action.

In today’s lesson there is the urging of Jesus to “Come and See…”  If the disciples want to see what Jesus is doing and what he teaches, they must come and see.  There is no sense, at least in this story, that they will ever arrive at a destination or achieve a certain position of status.  They will simply be disciples, those that walk closely behind Jesus and follow wherever He goes.  They will become known as Christians to the world.

We too are known in that way.  However, I wonder if calling ourselves disciples instead of Christians sometimes would be more helpful to describe our way of life?  Ours is a journey, not a destination.  Our way is to follow our teacher, to seek out what the teacher is doing pointing others to Him.  Our way is not to be the teacher.  Our place is behind Jesus and not in front of Him.

It’s just two words that mean similar things to most people.  However perhaps the difference has great significance.  “It has to mean something…  Right?”

More on Reverend Chris Adams can be found at: www.pastorchrisadams.com 

 

God seeks the one

As Christians, we are commissioned to “Go” (Mark 16:15) and reach the nations. Globe hands - courtsey of Jen Tringale MinistriesSometimes this can feel overwhelming; how can we make a difference in this sea of seven billion people? Although large crowds characterized Jesus’ ministry, he focused his energy on 12 individuals: his disciples. While in our own strength we sometimes seek to add people to the Kingdom of God, Jesus focused on multiplicative growth.

We play soccer at the Highlands some nights. The field is small as it used to be a swimming pool. The management at the Highlands filled dirt in the pool and converted it to a soccer field with artificial turf. A tall fence surrounds the pool, so that when I first entered I felt as though I was entering an ultimate fighting cage! We had a lot of fun playing with the residents of the Highlands.

After the game, I found myself talking to a young man named “Luol” who is 17, stands no less than 6’6” tall, and is from Sudan. Luol has lived in the States for about five years and will be a senior in high school this fall. His mom and his four siblings lived in a Kenyan refugee camp for five years after they fled from Sudan. Luol’s greatest aspiration is to become a jet pilot like his dad was before he was killed in the Sudanese civil war in 2003.  If that does not work out, he would like to become a professional soccer player.

Luol is only 17, but his experiences have made him mature beyond his years. He carries himself with decorum and respect. He is a Christian and participates in a Bible study led by the interns from World Relief who also live in the Highlands.

Our friends are not limited to soccer players. “Samir” lives a few apartments down from where I live. He is six years old and loves piggyback rides. His family is from Iraq. He loves to give swipe-swipe-pound handshakes and ride bikes in the small, crowded apartment parking lot with his gaggle of friends. His parents are working very hard to provide for their family.

The other day, I played badminton in the apartment parking lot with “Sumi” and his three brothers. Their family just moved to the States one month ago. Sumi went to university in Darjeeling, India and studied science there. I never knew badminton could be such a serious sport!

Living at the Highlands is a singular experience. I doubt one could live in proximity to such a wide assortment of cultures in any other place. At times, these refugees can feel isolated and forgotten. But God has not forgotten them. Each of them is His son or daughter. They are His workmanship and masterpiece. They have special talents and skills and personality traits that God placed in each of them.

One individual (Jesus) investing in a few (the Twelve) resulted in the greatest spiritual revival in history. The enemies of the Gospel exclaimed, “They are turning the world upside down!” (Acts 17:6). God has a plan to reach the nations, but we must realize that He is using us to reach individuals! Investing in one person is always worthwhile.

Caleb Huber - CHI 2013 participantCaleb is a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion.

Following Jesus

This week, we Taylor University students had the pleasure of having Carl Medearis come to campus and share about his life as a follower of Jesus. In chapel, he briefly spoke about his time as a “missionary” in the Middle East, whichDoezal, James- CHI 2013 began some 20 years ago; with an amused smirk, he remarked that, to his surprise, the Muslims he had initially gone to witness to didn’t have any interest in signing up for a new religion. After a month of failing to “Christianize the Muslims,” he came to the conclusion that he simply wasn’t communicating what he intended to; when he identified as “Christian,” his Muslim neighbors assumed he also meant American, Westernized, and sadly enough, immoral. One person actually responded to Carl’s invitation to become a Christian with shocking refusal: “I couldn’t do that,” he had said, “I love my family too much.” Sadly, in some parts of the world, the label “Christian” has become unassailably associated with hypocrisy and immorality.

Carl continued by telling us how he eventually learned to let go of the title “Christian” (while not, by any means, dissociating from ekklesia, which is central to an identity in Christ). Rather than focusing on religious identity, he discovered that as long as he focused on the person and work of Jesus, people were much more receptive to hearing the Gospel; incredibly more so, in fact. In a quick-and-dirty survey done in Boulder Creek, CO, Carl’s team discovered that when fifty people were asked about how they felt about “Christianity,” fifty responded negatively. Another fifty were asked how they felt about “Jesus of Nazareth,” and this time, all fifty responded positively. Over the next few months, as he shifted his outward identity from “Christian” to “Follower of Jesus,” he found that he was able to more easily able to share about what was at the heart of Christianity anyway: Jesus of Nazareth.

As I reflect on what Carl learned from his engagement with Muslims, I am realizing that the same must be true of my life.  It is not my desire to merely be a “Christian” in some nebulously, perhaps nominally, religious sense; rather, my aim is to follow Jesus. But what does that look like? How do I follow a man who reigns in heaven? In his book Speaking of Jesus, Carl describes the typically Christian lifestyle many people find themselves trapped in as a soccer match. We’re in it to win – to worship God well, to score some converts, and to beat Team Atheism or Team Islam. But if Jesus were to walk in his dusty sandals across the grassy field right in the middle of our game, would I recognize Him? If he looked straight at me and said “Follow me,” would I have the courage to drop what I’m doing and follow Him?

It is my prayer that this summer, the CHI program will help me discover how Jesus is calling me to do precisely this: drop everything to follow Him. I anxiously await the good things He has in store for this team. Please join us in praying for the courage and faith to follow Him in whatever contexts He calls us.

Editor’s note: James is one of six pre-medical students from across the country who will spend the summer in Nashville in a Community Health Immersion.