(Note: this is a continuation of chapter 1 of the Irreligious Followers book I am working on. The first part of this chapter is here, then here, and then here.)
Above all, followers of Jesus, by definition, are not clones of those around them.
Our cultures invite us to fall into lockstep and become clones of the habits, rituals, and norms of the system.
Our churches invite us to become like other church members and become good clones of their system.
Our nature is to play it safe by looking and acting like everyone else. If we find something we admire or like, we want to become clones rather than followers of the One who created uniquely.
A few paragraphs earlier I mentioned someone who quit his job because he believed God told him to. Don’t follow that story just because it’s easy or because you want to. Just because someone finds God’s will by doing this or that, don’t simply do this or that. Instead, follow Jesus. In fact, in many developing countries where I work, the religious culture dictates that ‘ministers’ who are called to ‘preach the Gospel’ should quit their work and means of income and depend on others to support them. This becomes the norm and it’s often a destructive one. The fact is, in most settings, Jesus leads His people to take and make jobs to care for their families and others. But there is still the issue of being a follower within that context. Don’t just become part of the system, bring the Kingdom of God and the creativity of God into the systems you live within as Jesus leads. When you take a job, expect to revolutionize that job and industry into a reflection of the Kingdom of God. When you see a need, expect Jesus to use you to bring the Kingdom of God into the process of meeting that need.
The point is, I am hesitant to give any illustrations of what it means to be a non-clone follower of Jesus because the tendency will be to become clones around the ideas put forth by those stories. Our tendency to fit into the norms and ideas of people around us is a strong one making it difficult to live as followers of the One.
Let’s step back and reflect on Jesus for a moment. He stepped into a particular national culture, a specific religious culture, and typical normative expectations of how to live. Yet He walked outside of those boxes in many ways as He expressed God’s Kingdom and rule for his earthly life. He offended the rule-keepers, ignored the standard-bearers, and refused to conform to the clone-boxes he was expected to fit into. In fact, He so offended the box-guards by his success outside of their boxes that their envy drove them, eventually, to a murderous rage. But even this did not cause Jesus to back down from living the life He was meant and called to live.
Followers of Jesus will surprise people because they don’t fit into the boxes, yet the blessing of God creates success for them and for those around them. They bring God’s rulership (Kingdom) first into their life by their singular devotion to Jesus as they walk out family life, vocation, friendships, and every other aspect of life. And they surprise people because they find success in each area even as they walk ‘not according to this world.’
Imagine when followers of Jesus get it that we do not live for the norms or expectations of man, but the will and purposes of an amazing God. Imagine when the followers of Jesus are willing to step out of all the expectations of our societies (including our church/religious ones) to allow Jesus alone to guide, shape, direct, mold, and inspire our lives.
“Every day I meet people who have so much to give but have been bullied enough or frightened enough to hold it back. It’s time to stop complying with the system and draw your own map. You have brilliance in you, your contribution is essential, and the art you create is precious. Only you can do it, and you must.” Seth Godin