I had a great time in Washington State last weekend. I spent my entire time west of Puget Sound on the Olympic Peninsula, some of it in Port Orchard and some of it around Port Angeles. A few of us even took an afternoon hike on Saturday through the rain forest to the falls pictured at left. We gathered every night and often talked through the day with people on various stages of the journey—many of them wanting a greater reality in Jesus and a richer body life with others.
We talked about so many things, from helping people get focused on Jesus instead of various ‘church’ models to encouraging people to walk in his freedom rather than the expectations and demands of even well-meaning Christians around them who think our dependence is on an institution rather than on Christ. Some people really struggled with things we shared, others embraced them with open hearts knowing that we were only giving voice to things God was already teaching them. I love when that happens.
As I was reading in I Peter 4 this morning in The Message I came across some passages that speak to that directly. Unfortunately we normally only apply them to people in the world:
Then further down that chapter:
It’s easy to see these passages as only applicable to those caught up in the rebellious ways of the world, but Jesus also lived this out with people who were caught up in the demanding ways of religion. When the religionists of his day chided him for not fitting into their ways or respecting their authority, he was not swayed. He followed his Father’s voice rather than the jealous cries of his threatened countrymen. One of the hardest hurdles for any of us schooled in religion to get past is no longer to seek the approval of others. People caught up in religion use approval to manipulate people. If you conform to their ways they shower acceptance on you. But if you don’t they heap blame and accusations on you hoping to scare you back into the fold.
Peter wanted his readers to remember that it is God that we and our detractors give account to, not each other. If we are following him we will no longer be manipulated by those voices that seek to lure us back into religious obligation or reject our spirituality because it doesn’t conform to their expectations. I love Peter’s reminder in that as well. If you’re suffering the rejection of others because you’re following Christ, then consider yourself fortunate. If, however, you are rejected because you are arrogant, bitter or destructive, then that’s a different matter entirely. Don’t glory in the trouble caused by self, but that which is caused by your life in Jesus and that rejection will only become another tool in his hands to make you more like him.
I know how scary and painful it can be to risk friendships like that, but it is the only way to follow him and in the end you’ll also get to find out who your true friends really are. Real friends will support your passion for Jesus even if they don’t understand the way he’s leading you. To live in his fullness we have to follow him instead of playing to the crowd—whether that’s those caught up in the world, or those held captive by religion.