Teacher, guide, friend, master…? However we define Jesus, our answer demands action

Jesus: “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:29-30 (The Message)

  • Note: I should mention here, for those of you who have forgotten, when I write these posts what I’m really doing is thinking out loud…
– author and men’s ministry activist Derek Maul

Here’s a question: How can I possibly wrap up this long conversation I have been having with the men of Wake Forest Presbyterian Church? We have studied some excellent books (and a few not so good); we have read and tried to wrap our minds around a wide range of passages, topics, and books in the Bible; and we have dug deep in terms of what it means for us to live as intentional followers of the Way of Jesus.

Each week, on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, a bunch of men come together, dump out the contents of their souls onto the table, and – with the help of God – we try our best to sort through the detritus for the gems, the nuggets of gold, the raw beauty of light, and truth, and love, and purpose.

The Last Study:

This week I have started the process of unwrapping the last study, the final series of conversations. Only I am not exactly sure what is going to be in the box!

So, in a similar vein to the discussion I reported on in “An Apologetic of Love”, we started with Jesus.

We focused on three essential questions:

  1. Who is Jesus to me?
  2. What does Jesus expect from me?
  3. What – going forward – do I need from Jesus?

What we discovered was that the answer to #2 is deeply informed by the answer to #1. If I say Jesus is my guide, then I must acknowledge that Jesus wants me to be moving, exploring, and risking in a way that requires a guide. If Jesus is a role model – as one man said – then Jesus expects us to model ourselves after his example. If Jesus is my best friend, then he expects trust, interaction, mutuality, reciprocation, shared confidences, and growth in the relationship.

In other words, who we say Jesus is to us is something that necessarily demands a response.

Reassurance and Confidence:

The third question assumes our continued commitment to the relationship while addressing the fact that the relationship is weighted in terms of our need and Christ’s sufficiency. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” Jesus says in a follow up to promising rest for the weary and burdened, “for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

What the men around the table Wednesday evening said they need from Jesus mostly boiled down to reassurance and confidence. They need more than intellectual assent, they need gut level knowing. They need courage too, they said, to live in response to where God is leading.

I said, “I need Jesus to continue to challenge me.” What I mean by that, I guess, is not so much that I enjoy discomfort so much as that I want to know that Jesus still trusts me enough to require something of me.

“Do you really trust me?” is a question Jesus has asked me/us more than once! Like when Rebekah entered the ministry, and when we made the decision to move to Wake Forest, and when I was wrestling with the decision to give up my salary as a school teacher in order to write full time and to develop this important vision for ministry with men.

– do I trust Jesus? (stock image from the Internet)

“So do you really trust me?” Jesus is saying today, as I look into what comes next. The trust issue goes both ways. I want to know that Jesus trusts me too, that he still sees me as worth the investment of the energy of vision. Of course he does; but I am interested to see how that plays out for a man who is moving on from what he has known, and loved, and invested everything in for forty years.

Grace, peace, light, and promise – DEREK

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