What it Means to Follow Jesus

I just finished reading Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. Rohr’s aim is to help us get beyond dualistic thinking by encouraging us to live “in the naked now, the ‘sacrement of the present moment,’ that will teach us how to actually experience our experiences, whether good, bad, or ungly, and how to let them transform us.” Nonduality is not a principle unique to Christian mystical thought; as Rohr points out in his book, the Hindu, Mahayana Buddhist and Chinese Taoist religions all proceed from a worldview of nonduality. But it takes on a disctinctive form in Christianity.

In a chapter titled How to Celebrate Paradox, Rohr invites us to take two statements as axiomatic:

(1) All statements and beliefs about Jesus are also statements about the journey of the soul (birth, chosenness, ordinary life, initiation, career, misunderstanding and oppoisition, failure, death in several forms, resurrection, and return to God).

(2) All statements about “the Christ” are statements about the “Body” of Christ, too. We are not the historical Jesus, but we are the Body of Christ.

I suspect these are statements that will trouble some people because the way we talk about Jesus as the Son of God tends to separate Him from us. We mouth our understanding that Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine, but most people tend to downplay the fully human part, which can be a very convenient way to let ourselves off the hook to engage in the tough work of transformation.

I think there is much truth to Rohr’s concern that we worship Jesus rather than follow him. He writes:

One of the most subtle ways to avoid imitating someone is to put them on a pedastal, above and apart from us. When you accept that Jesus was not merely divine but human as well, you can begin to see how you are not separate from Jesus.

It is a lot easier to worship than to imitate. Jesus’ instruction, however, was not “worship me,” but “follow me.” To become one with Him, as he and the Father are one.