By Benjamin Swift
As Christians we live in interesting and challenging times. There’s an elephant in the room, one that’s always been there, in fact it can be found in every room, but one that is becoming more difficult to tiptoe around. As worldly issues and thought keep pressuring and threatening Christians to conform or to pay the price, it doesn’t take long before dividing lines start forming, even amongst those associated with Christianity in its various forms.
And so let’s consider stepping away from our ring side seats and into the ring itself, ready to grapple with what we should expect if we are to live for Christ or to put it another way, to consider what Christ really asks of those who claim to be Christian; followers of The Way.
What exactly is it that Jesus asks of us? A couple of initial thoughts to get the ball rolling and keep in mind the ball will need to keep rolling well beyond this article.
CS Lewis suggests in Mere Christianity:
Christ says, “Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money, and so much of your worth: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out.”
Lewis can only write these thoughts because he understands Jesus’ words:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self, (Luke 9:23-25 NIV).
You may or may not be familiar with world renowned psychologist Jordan Peterson who wrote the bestselling book, The 12 Rules for Life. When writing this book, Peterson was not a follower of Christ but more of an atheist who recognised the benefits of Christianity’s legacy for western society. For those who’ve read his book, you might be wondering why Jordan Peterson would be used in reference to Christian belief and living for Christ. Well, stay with me.
Interestingly, and in a nutshell, at the time of writing his book, Peterson aimed to live as though God were real and Christianity was true. Skipping through his long journey in grappling with God from the time of writing his book, to more recent times, he shared some interesting thoughts about things that ought to be challenging for any professing Christian. Here’s some of what he said, fighting tears mind you, and with the voice of a man who has evidently wrestled with life, God, and truth.
Who would have the audacity to claim they believed in God?
If they examined the way they lived, who would dare say that? To have the audacity to claim that you believe in Christianity means that you live it out fully.
And that’s an unbearable task in some sense, to be able to accept the structure of existence, the suffering that goes along with it, and the disappointment, the betrayal, and to none-the-less, act properly, to aim at the good with all your heart, to dispense with… your desire for destruction and revenge and all that, and to face things courageously and to tell the truth, to speak the truth and to act it out?
That’s what it means to believe, that’s what it means!
It doesn’t mean to state it. It means to act it out, and unless you act it out, you should be very careful about claiming it.
God only knows what you would be if you truly believed.
If you were capable of believing it would be a truly transfiguring event.
The proof of belief is to be found in action.
Peterson’s words are challenging. And I guess that’s the heart of this article: What would things look like if we truly believed? That is that Jesus is who he claimed to be, that his words are true and that we are called to a changed life, turned away from self and towards Christ? What would that look like? What would we be capable of standing up for? Surely this would be dangerously revolutionary.
But be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they are like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing (James 1:22-25 NRSV).
 Lewis, C.S. The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics (Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2002) p.104.