Jesus didn’t do any service projects in Nazareth. He didn’t evangelize, either. He wasn’t teaching or preaching. He wasn’t doing any of the things we’d expect to see serious minded young Christians engaging themselves in, these days. It’s not that those things were wrong, or somehow beneath him or beneath us.
It’s that they weren’t everything. And it wasn’t time.
You want a service project? How about healing everyone in the entire town of Bethsaida, in one day? How about feeding between 5 and 25 thousand people, in an hour? How about that?
You want evangelism? How about spending three days with an entire town of Samaritans, all by himself? How about telling a former demoniac to stay with his family, so that whole area could hear about the Lord? How about sending out 35 teams of apostles-in-training for 6 months, including all winter? How about lots of other examples?
Just not in Nazareth.
You want preaching? There are plenty of examples. Teaching? Same thing, just not during his first 34 years. Just not in Nazareth. And one more key “not”.
Not all the time.
Jesus never tried to institutionalize the working of his Father. He never tried to systematize the things he did. Jesus simply followed the leading of his Father, God.
He understood time. He understood seasons.
Yes, the Lord did what was right, according to principle. And yet he also depended on the living Spirit of God that was within him and upon him. He didn’t do the same thing every day. He didn’t fill out a “Christian checklist” of all the things God expected him to do.
He did what he did. He lived. Stuff happened. What he did... well, it depended.
This is one of the reasons I believe we need Year-by-Year.
Today, young people read the New Testament and see Jesus doing all of these things. And they get all fired up to do what Jesus did. But they don’t see the context. They don’t see the changes.
I strongly believe that blind spot is at least partly because we come to the New Testament with a very low sense of time and space and a very light sense of reality. As if it's merely words and principles and ideas to apply... instead of real life. And my sense of things is that many believers get the idea that we’re supposed to apply all the ideas, all the time, as much as we can, all at once, on top of one another.
Especially young believers.
(And we wonder why so many burn out and drop out.)
You can’t set out to imitate the Lord’s actions in every detail, not even in full context. That isn’t the goal, anyway. You set out to follow the Lord. You follow the spirit. If you imitate the Lord – imitate the way he followed his Father. Jesus did nothing he did not see his father doing. He did nothing by himself.
The truth is, we learn to trust God over time. We learn seasons or else we burn out. We learn mystery, wonder and faith... unless we're caught using a human perspective to systematize what we think we must do.
Christianity is, by its very nature, non-systematizeable and non-institutional.
Now for those who care to defend and stick with Christian institutionalism… okay. Have your institutions. Honestly, you’ve got my best wishes for constantly renewing them. In Christ, in your spirits, keep at it my brothers and sisters. And in that light, please note: all I’m actually talking about in this post is the practice of daily, yearly and lifelong christian living.
I'm talking about christian behavior. And all I'm saying is just: please do not try to institute personal patterns of special behavior, one time for all.
In nature, Living things move. If something doesn’t move, it’s not alive.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not totally against order and principles and planning and structure. Not at all. I’m really not a “follow your bliss” guy who says “do only what you feel inspired to” either. I’m actually pretty left brained and extremely conservative.
I’m just in favor of Living Faith.
Again, one of the top qualities of life is that it moves. Therefore, Christians might not want to try SO hard to nail things down completely. Change is not automatically an enemy. If you take any living thing and freeze it solid, you usually kill it.
Like God’s Tabernacle, and the Pillar of Fire before it, Jesus Christ moved across the Earth. Sometimes he stopped. Sometimes he went. He followed his Father God.
I believe Christians are called to follow. Not to freeze.
And I think one way to see Living Movement in the New Testament is to put the ongoing, constantly changing status of time and space back into our view of it as much as possible...