Following Jesus is a call to betrayal. There can be no fudging this. As soon as we affirm that ‘Jesus is Lord!’ we have committed an act of betrayal. We are announcing that all other allegiances and narratives must now be forfeit to a greater and deeper vocation.
Ambition and identity are to be held lightly and be subject to Christ. All desires and aspirations are to be shaped by love. Selfish ambition has no place in the life of a Jesus follower. There can be no desire to make a name for ourselves (the sin of Babel) or to become ‘a big name’ on the conference circuit. We are, instead, to consider other’s needs as above our own, willingly working for the betterment of our sisters and brothers. Our identity is to be found in and through Christ and not through success or fame or riches. Our self-awareness is firstly found in being a recipient of God’s gratuitous grace and not in our being male or female, Gentile or Jew, slave or free. Such identities must, at most, be tertiary, for of secondary importance is being part of a new community of grace, the ‘called out’ ones, called together to betray previous narratives in favour of a better story.
We see this played out again and again in Acts of the Apostles. Pentecost comes with a BANG, turning the usual, the ‘normal,’ upside down. It is the first taste of Mary’s Magnificat in the life of the Church: the humble become filled; the powerless become those who shape the future; the fearful become brave and the weak strong; the rich and powerful start to lose their place in the hierarchy because ‘there is another king, one Jesus.’
We see this unfold as Peter and John heal the cripple and have their first run in with the spiritual leaders. The disciples will not keep silent, threats or no; even imprisonment is no obstacle to them. And neither is the beginnings of persecution and martyrdom. Indeed, as Tertullian noted in Apologeticus, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. We see this again as Saul finds faith, as Peter encounters Cornelius, as Paul and Barnabus set off on their journeys; as the new movement spreads into Europe where it found a home for the next two thousand years; as the apostles wrote their letters and the Gospels, seeking to help the fledgling churches apply the stories of Jesus to their growing lives.
And so a new narrative emerged, one in which ‘this Jesus’ takes the leading role, with the disciples playing necessary but secondary parts in a new story. These are not ‘walk on’ parts, but meaningful and insightful roles. They are the out-working of the in-breaking Kingdom of God, a process that continues even to this day.
The concern is, however, that Europe, home to the faith for 2000, has failed to continue living a life of betrayal. Instead the church, instead of speaking the truth to power, became the power itself. The assertion moved from ‘Jesus is Lord!’ to ‘the church is the embodiment of the Kingdom and therefore you must submit to the Church.’ Ecclesiastical power was substituted for humility and the narrative of Jesus was lost.
We need to retell the Jesus story. We need to learn again the art of betraying the powers and principalities by embodying that first Christian creed, Jesus is Lord!
The views expressed in this blog post are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the GC network.