Lesson 1: Jesus

Welcome to the new course. It’ll be a little different than the first. I shall try to offer one- page, four- sessions series. Hopefully, that will help everyone to keep up, as the course will work best if we have participants sharing their ideas. The goal is to develop a Christian lifestyle appropriate for our time and place by the end of the summer. I’ve invited the Company at Kirkridge, an intentional Christian group who has pondered the topic, to offer their insights.

The first four sessions will offer four historic versions of that lifestyle. Obviously, we should start with Jesus whom John describes as “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14: 1-14). Although Christianity is not strictly an imitation of Jesus, it is founded on his words and actions. Of course, it is not all that easy to come up with his lifestyle as the four gospels all offer different ones; however, I’ll throw out my harmony of the four.

1. Jesus’ lifestyle was based on the implications of trusting that God is a father who loves the world, including each one of us and all parts of creation. That faith assumes that the ultimate is benevolent, even if that is not evident from other social and cosmic perspectives. God provides what we need.

2. It is prophetic, placing loving actions above formal worship. Jesus acknowledged that the refusal to trust this benevolent God led to a tension between what is and what ought to be. He was constantly offering a better way to live; yet his faith enabled him to do this without anxiety.

3. His lifestyle was embedded in a small group whose members shared their resources as if they were family. This community made sure all have enough. The greatest served the least. The Servant was the model, and hospitality the rule. He embodied this by washing his disciples’ feet and ministering to anyone who came in need, even foreigners.

4. His actions were always directed at overcoming the suffering of the world. He continually healed physical, mental, and spiritual disease and injury, provided the basic material necessities of life for those in need, and forgave past actions. At the same time, he did not base his ministry on miracle, did not live by bread alone, and was not indifferent to evil.

5. His way placed radical, unconditional love, which flexibly and spontaneously responds to real need, above abstract, absolute law. This was especially characterized by
a) returning good for evil, even extending love to ones enemies and b) forgiving offenders “seventy times seven times”.

6. He refused violence when threatened and exemplified this by giving his life for his friends. The New Testament primarily described his crucifixion as simply his or God’s act of love.

This lifestyle threatened the status quo. In fact, he openly criticized the political, social, and religious authorities for oppressing the common people for whom they had responsibility. He describes them as hypocrites, not being quite clear if he means they lie or simply deceive themselves. The authorities reacted violently, executing him as an enemy of humanity.

I’ll look at the lifestyle of the early church next Tuesday. In the meantime, let’s get started on developing a modern Christian lifestyle. What would you add to my picture? How do you read Jesus differently? To what extent can we realistically imitate him?

Notice that you can receive the lessons via e-mail. If you want to participate in the comments, and I hope you will, you must register. Some have found that a little confusing. If you have any trouble, let me know at fritzafoltz@embarqmail.com I can do for you very easily and quickly.

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