Jesus Lives In A Rehab – Who Knew?Social Justice — By Jo Hilder on September 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm
I’ve been a Christian for almost thirty years, and think that I’ve only just begun to understand Christian discipleship, as opposed to franchise Christianity. The two are quite different. My way of seeing, being and doing is changing; I put it down to living closer to Christ’s actual words and teaching as discussed in the Gospels. I wish I could claim to be improved as a human being. What’s actually happened is that I am realizing what I am really like, how hard it is to change, and it sure ain’t pretty.
I have been a Christian my whole adult life. I have been a minister for many years, considering it a privilege. I have been in several excellent churches and gained much useful knowledge about self-improvement and navigating my life with wisdom and propriety. Last year, my husband, also a Christian all his adult life, was admitted to rehab for alcoholism. We split up. With our family in tatters, I looked to my Christianity for answers, and for support. I have to tell you, I found both a bit thin on the ground. What happened to us isn’t meant to happen. Were we not meant to be the ones who had it All Worked Out, who had managed to organise The Perfect Life? Isn’t that what Christianity is for?
When I went to visit my husband for the first time at the rehab farm three months into his stay, I encountered something I had never seen before. There were a bunch of fairly uncharismatic people doing God’s work without dynamic leadership, and without flash and for the most part, without cash. You couldn’t tell the inmates, or seekers, from the staff just by looking at them, or even by listening to them talk.
It actually took me a few weeks to work out how the place operated, and why it was so different from any other Christian organisation I had ever encountered. They weren’t trying to get people to join their church, or even get people “saved”. They lived and worked a devotional life alongside each other, just living everyday life. The ones with Christ lived Christ, and showed by their actions and words “This is Christ”. Sometimes, the seekers wanted more, sometimes they just said “thanks very much” and then left. My husband, a charismatic Christian his entire life, had an opportunity to see Jesus lived by real men, in a real community centred around Christ, seven days a week, not inside a Church on Sundays. He was discipled for the first time in his Christian experience. He recovered from his alcoholism, and came home to his family, whole and healed.
We keep our ties with this place. It’s where we, after thirty years of Christianity, found Jesus, and became his disciples.
This is why I am so interested in exploring the difference between Christianity and Christian discipleship – because I have observed there is a difference. A disciple is more than just a follower or a fan. Jesus had crowds of people following him around, talking about what he did and said, and being transformed by his words and deeds, but they were not his disciples. They were the Christians of the day, his fans and followers, perhaps even his stalkers. A disciple goes further than just being a fan. A disciple is immersed in the teachings of their master, following in his steps, living the lifestyle and applying the practices spiritually and practically. I fear we have been much focussed within Christianity on making good citizens, effective leaders, passionate speakers and savvy financiers and not been particularly interested in making disciples of Christ.
A few things I have learned about being a disciple of Christ, as opposed to being a Christian.
• It’s not about dynamic leadership.
The Jews had expected an apocalyptic Messiah, who would come to depose the Romans and lead Israel to freedom. In light of this, Jesus was a fairly hopeless leader. Instead of being energised by crowds, he scarpered off quite a lot when big groups gathered. He showed little interest in important people whom might have gained him favour with authorities. Instead, Jesus hung out with low-lifes, eating in their houses and allowing himself to be pawed by them. He would not govern as Moses had, nor did he throw his weight around. When people asked him to judge their trivial differences, he spoke about the bigger, eternal picture, and they grew frustrated with his convoluted language. The Bible speaks of him as having nothing particularly charismatic about him – he just got on with the work. Jesus first disciples were tradesmen, never having progressed from the primary school of the Torah to Jewish Bible College. Discipleship, it seems, requires only a willingness to learn from Christ’s life and teachings. Any fisherman can do it.
• It’s not about being well-behaved, compliant or passive.
Jesus was not meek and mild. The way he spoke was often obnoxious and argumentative, particularly when addressing the leaders and teachers of his day. He shouted a lot, and was quite combative. Violating customs, he talked openly to women in public, and allowed prostitutes to touch his body. He made a whip and used it in church, on people. He once addressed his closest friend by accusing him of being directed by Satan. Jesus was not “nice.”
• It’s not about money.
Jesus didn’t give anyone money, and he didn’t take anyone’s money. He paid taxes, but didn’t work for a living. Jesus didn’t give advice on money except to say that having a lot of it would make it difficult to do God’s work, and heaping it up in one place was selfish. Jesus spoke about attitudes and intentions concerning money, and nothing about the vast accumulation or multiplication of it. As far as Jesus was concerned, true treasures were not of this earth.
• It’s not about being a winner in life
Jesus did exactly what God told him to do from beginning to end. He told people where he had come from, explaining his mission the whole time. People knew he had been a carpenter, and who his parents were; he was not some blow-in, snake oil salesman. He obeyed God implicitly the whole of his public life. And then, the very people he was sent to help murdered him. I think this should put our expectations into perspective somewhat concerning why we continue with this Christian gig. Is it to get the Perfect Life? Or are we even interested in the life and death of Jesus Christ, at all?
When my husband and I encountered the personality and character of Jesus Christ being lived out, we didn’t recognize it, even after a lifetime of Christianity. Would you? Consider perhaps the difference between pursuing a life improved and enhanced by the life of Jesus, or Christianity, or a life changed into the image of Christ, which is discipleship.
Learn about the work of Sherwood Cliffs Christian Community Rehabilitation Centre here.