It is said that Ghandhi once remarked that he would have been a Christian, if he had ever seen one. Our religious traditions, our beliefs, our God-talk do not make us Christians. Even believing in Jesus and receiving him into our hearts do not make us Christians in the real sense, if by that we imagine Jesus primarily as a comfort, a secret friend to confide in, one who helps us through the trials and troubles of life and who in the end will open the door for us into the safety and bliss of heaven. A Christian is not simply a believer in that way but a disciple, one who is seeking to learn and to follow in the way of Jesus.
Jesus was not, like many great philosophers or religious gurus, an exponent of complex ideas that are difficult to understand. He never wrote anything down, and made little or no attempt to appeal to the educated classes. His audience were largely simple people and he spoke to them in the simplest possible way. His message was direct and unambiguous. It was at the same time the most simple and the most profound challenge to our self regarding and self protecting instincts. Love your enemies. Do not be anxious about tomorrow. Don't judge. Be merciful. Forgive seventy times seven. Blessed are the meek....the pure in heart....the peacemakers. Take up your cross. This is what Gandhi said he had never seen.
The problem with the simple sayings of Jesus is not that they are hard to comprehend but that most people find them impossible. In modern life it is often easier to settle for a different kind of spirit: moral respectability, perhaps, overlaid with religious convention; a personal "spirituality", fed by whatever source happens to stimulate; even a commitment to social justice, yet with more concern for righting wrongs than revealing the true heart of God. For ordinary men and women, all too aware of their own frailty, Jesus' words can seem like a call to the heroic.
And perhaps they are, if we take them only as a personal word. They are like seeds with little hope of bearing fruit, isolated in the barren soil of today's culture. Yet it is our experience that as we seek to live together in accordance with these sayings, what is produced is an extraordinary discipleship for ordinary men and women. There is a spiritual awakening to love and friendship, self giving and generosity, honesty and trust.
Such an awakening as this issues in a remarkable release of resources for a multi-faceted ministry and service. Our own history has proved that our Community can be a place where such radical discipleship can be lived by men, women and children at all stages of spiritual growth in the context of ordinary family life. When it is, energy and resources are generated to serve the Christ who has invited us to follow him in this way. For this reason, the simple sayings of Jesus are a constant source of reflection and encouragement among us.
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