Over the next several months, I will focus this space on exploring our identity as NWYM Friends. A clear message communicated throughout the vision and long-range planning process emphasized our need to relearn and reclaim our identity as Christ-centered Friends. Together, we believe we have something significant to offer the world as we are faithful to our particular calling as Jesus’ people.
Several months ago, I tried to suggest that Friends have long confessed that we can both know and obey Jesus Christ. This, at least in my mind, is at the heart of our life and message and central to the shape and direction of our individual lives and communal witness.
This business of obeying Jesus, it seems to me, begins with the understanding and experience of grace. In Scripture, the overwhelming message is that God’s love and grace reaches out to us in our helplessness and even in our disobedience. Clearly, Jesus related this way to people in His day, sitting down and fellowshipping with folks even before they demonstrated any active faith in Him or repentance. In the radical inclusiveness of Jesus, sinners (like me…and, by the way—you) come “just as we are…” to Christ.
The amazing grace of God, of course, isn’t content to leave us in our sin, dysfunction and brokenness. No way! Graces heals, redeems, restores and makes right. The experience of grace draws us toward holiness, righteousness and truth. Because of grace, the enemies of God become the friends of God—doing “even as He commands.” Indeed, what an amazing grace that we can and will be refashioned into the image of Christ himself.
The radical inclusiveness of God’s grace and the call to be a Christ-like people are not mutually exclusive or contradictory messages. Instead, they are paradoxical truths that must be held in tension, as we seek to be the church of Jesus Christ. Committed to modeling the love and grace of Jesus, we speak and embody the good news of the gospel to all people. And in the context of our communities, we are clear to speak the truth and disciple people to know and obey Christ’s teachings and to follow His example.
And this is difficult. What I am mindful of is that the creation of this kind of community begins with me, at least in the sense that I am responsible to cultivate this kind of vibrant, growing life with Christ. So…
When it comes to living in grace, I try:
- To begin each day remembering I am one of God’s beloved.
- To re-claim the promise that I am forgiven, welcome, accepted and at home in Christ.
- To be grateful for the gifts, call, and life I have been given—content in who God is creating me to be, and in the part I get to play in God’s work in the world.
- To be thankful for others who help me along the way, including my church.
When it comes to learning to be a disciple, I try:
- To daily study and take seriously the teachings of Scripture and conform to the clear teachings revealed there.
- To offer my whole self, humbly before God, as a living sacrifice in the hope I might then become increasingly clear about what is the will of God for my life.
- To learn how to pray, listen, and then obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I’m trying to act on the reality that there continues to be One who speaks to our condition and who leads and guides people like me, both generally and specifically in the context of everyday living.
- To live accountably and submissively within the fellowship of believers. Since we are members of Christ’s body—where diverse parts and perspectives find a unity that transcends these realities—it is wise and good to be shaped by other disciples.
When it comes to speaking the truth, I try:
- To say what I know to be in harmony with what is written in the Word and spoken by the Spirit.
- To do so with grace, humility and courage.
- To remember that all of us (me included) grow into our faith. Discipleship means being a student of Jesus and it takes a lifetime of learning to be perfected. Patient teaching is probably in order.
- To do so expecting that some will disagree and may even become angry with this message. Therefore, I am not surprised or upset or defeated that some find Jesus’ message upsetting or dismiss it as nonsense. And, their rejection does not warrant an angry or hateful response by me.
- To remember that the ethics of Jesus’ Kingdom are counter-cultural. We are called to be radically identified with Him and His values. I don’t serve Him or the message by watering it down. Similarly, I need to be careful that I am not called to market or sell Jesus. Whenever I do this I almost always wind up distorting things or outright fabricating something. My job, just as Jesus modeled, is to invite people to come and follow—nothing more, nothing less.
Colin Saxton — NWYM Superintendent