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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Believing Vs Following --- Rev. Dr. Harry Wendt

In his book Beyond Guilt (pp. 19, 20), George Johnson includes the following statement by Dr. Ernest Campbell, who once served as pastor of Riverside Church in New York City:

“It began innocently enough–a friend recommending a book by Jon Sobrino. The Salvadoran Jesuit blew most of my ducks out of the water. He threw a hat down on my scrabble board and messed up many of my combinations. He forced me to contend for the ground that I had claimed. The question that Jon Sobrino put to me I must share with you: ‘Are you following Jesus, or believing in Christ?’

“Plunge into the Gospels anywhere and you will likely find Jesus asking someone to follow. The Greek verb is akoloutheo. It represents a dominant motif. Why, then, do we hear so little about following Jesus in the church today? I’ve been in, with, and around the church for more than 50 years. Not when I was in the communicants’ class; not when I joined the church; not when I became a candidate for the ministry; not when I was ordained; and never in any of my services of installation. Always the questions have dealt with belief. ‘Do you believe in God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Do you believe in the veracity of the Scriptures and the Westminister Confession? Do you believe in the unity and purity of the church?’

“Do you believe in Christ? It isn’t hard to answer that. What is wanted is an affirmative response to treasured propositions about the Second Person of the Trinity. But when someone asks, ‘Are you following Jesus?’—this can get to be expensive. This question has to do with my lifestyle, my attitudes, my values, my surrender.

“If I’m following Jesus, why am I such a good insurance risk? If I’m following Jesus, why, when I have done my giving, have I so much left over for myself? If I’m following Jesus, why do my closets bulge when so many are unclothed? If I’m following Jesus, why do I have so many friends among the affluent and so few among the poor?
If I’m following Jesus, why do I have so much privacy in a world that is starved for love? If I’m following Jesus, why am I tempted to overeat in a world in which so many beg for bread? If I’m following Jesus, why am I getting on so well in a world that marked Him out for death?

“Are you following Jesus or believing in Christ? Unfair, you say; the two are inseparable. Theoretically, yes, but pragmatically, no. We separate them all the time. If we must, let us err on the side of following. For one can believe without following, but one cannot follow without believing.”

1 comment:

Ron Hietsch said...

Ouch! I should read this first thing every morning.