These “Truths” I Now Embrace About What It Means to Follow Jesus

What does it mean to follow Jesus? Highly regarded representatives from twelve Christian traditions told us how those within their traditions answer that all-important question in the twelve-month conversation that I recently hosted on this website (which you can access at the bottom of this Home Page).

But what did I learn from this conversation? I now present a compendium of “truths” that I now embrace as a result of this ecumenical conversation; “truths” that I believe should guide me in my day-to-day decisions as I aspire to be a faithful follower of Jesus

#1: I should avail myself of the resources for spiritual growth (i.e., rituals for worship and practice of the sacraments) provided in the Christian tradition in which I worship at the same time that I take concrete actions in response to the commandments of Jesus, especially his commandment, recorded in Matthew 25, that I minister to the needs of the poor, persecuted, and marginalized in our society. It is both/and, not either/or.

#2: There is much room for freedom and spontaneity in deciding how to follow Jesus, but that freedom has “boundaries.” I should formulate a Christian ethic that starts with my understanding of Christian values, on the basis of which I should make daily decisions that promote the realization of these values and avoid actions that are destructive of these values.

#3. To faithfully follow Jesus is a dynamic process that I pursue without having all the answers to contentious questions due to my finitude and fallibility. It is in the process of following Jesus that I discern better answers and gain greater insight into how I should continue to follow Jesus.

#4: “Who I am” deeply informs my decisions on how I should follow Jesus. This includes my particularities, such as my gender, my race and ethnicity, my socio-economic status, and my sexual orientation, as well as my biography (my personal story) and even my personality.

#5: Because no two Christians are identical in their particularities and biographies, a Christian from another tradition, or my own tradition, who disagrees with me may see things that I miss because of “who he/she is,” and I may see things that he/she misses because of “who I am.” Therefore, my conversation with such a person should start with attempts to understand the beliefs of the other person and the reasons we have for our differing beliefs.

#6. God’s purposes for the world are not limited to only saving individual people. God wishes to redeem all aspects of creation, including systemic structures like the political realm, and I should seek to partner with God, contributing to God’s redemptive work in ways that best fit with my giftedness.

#7. It is a false choice to view my Christian commitment my Christian commitment as focusing on “Jesus and me” or contributing to God’s redemption of the world. It is both/and, not either/or.

#8: In the midst of the diversity of beliefs across Christian traditions, all Christians should share a commitment to “partnering with God” by fostering their understandings of God’s redemptive purposes for our world.

#9: The task to which Christians are committed must include a social and political vision that calls for communal action, not just individual action.

#10: I need to be wary of the possibility of my Christian tradition deteriorating from a heartfelt renewal movement to a lifeless moribund tradition. This requires my being open to the possible emergence of new leaders in my tradition who will become “this generation’s reforming fires.”

#11:  In responding to the calling of Jesus recorded in Matthew 25 to work for justice for the marginalized members of our society, such as racial groups who have been discriminated against since the founding of America, I must put myself in situations that take me beyond understanding the causes of the pain experienced by these marginalized groups to actually feeling their pain.

#12: A good starting place for me to follow Jesus is for me to regularly search Scriptures, always striving for a better understanding of truth; for me to regularly pray to God, offering up my petitions and my gratitude for God’s grace; for me to love and serve others as Jesus did; and for me to fully live out my Christian faith in community with other members of the body of Christ.

#13: I should avoid the conceit of thinking “it is my way or the highway.” I should not make my Christian experience normative by believing that other Christians, within and beyond my tradition, need to follow Jesus my way. There exists a rich multiplicity of ways to follow Jesus that reflects each person’s uniqueness.

#14: I should expose myself to what Christian traditions other than my own believe about what it means to follow Jesus in order to gain insights to inform my aspiration to faithfully follow Jesus.

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