2020. It seems like a year that is from one of those old school science fiction books. I am amazed there are not flying cars and that we don’t have robots to do all of our work (I grew up watching the Jetson’s. If you don’t know what that is…well, you are missing out.). However, some things I thought would have gotten better in my life and they haven’t.
By many metrics we live in the safest and healthiest time in human history. However, in the middle of that reality we have lost the art of charitable conversation. We live in a polarized world and unless something dramatic changes the polarization is only going to intensify. We all have an opinion and most of the time our opinions are shaped by one side of an argument with little true thought to the other side, or even an alternative way.
All of that to say, what if those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus decided enough is enough. Here is what I mean, most of the time I try to write and speak to people who do and people who don’t call themselves followers of Jesus. Today, I write this primarily for the Jesus followers.
Here is my simple challenge, if you call yourself a follower of Jesus, then decide this year (it would be great if it was a practice for the rest of your life) that you will spend more time being shaped by spiritual practices than by cable news, social media, or whatever else occupies your time. For some of us, we call ourselves followers of Jesus, but rarely spend time with Him. We have spent little time with the words and teachings of Jesus. We have little understanding of the early church and how it functioned. We pick and choose passages of the Bible to support our arguments without having a firm grasp of how to read it in a Christocentric way. Basically, we claim to follow someone, to be in relationship with someone, that we don’t really know that well.
The church I pastor will be spending a considerable amount of time looking at the practices of the followers of Jesus in the hopes that we will look more and more like the one we claim to follow. But, 9 Sundays in the spring is not sufficient to truly know and follow Jesus! Let’s you and I commit to following Jesus more closely than we follow anything else (sports, politics, sales, stock prices, etc.). So here are a few ideas as we begin the new year, the new decade, to become people who look, act, and live more like the one we claim to follow…to be clear I am working diligently to fully embrace these ways of living myself. This is not a call to perfection, but a call to persistence. These are not in order of importance, they are all important.
- Begin each day in silence
Our days are filled with so much noise. Whether it is our phone, the television, or our car radio, there is always noise, so much so that we don’t know how to live with silence because it is so rare. In the silence is where we can be truly introspective. With more silence we have the ability to hear in the middle of the noise of daily living
- Spend less time on social media and watching television
What if we set a personal rule that we would track our time online and watching television and our spiritual practice time would at a minimum equal that time. In truth, I don’t believe you have to be a spiritual giant to do this, but it would require living intentionally.
- Live Intentionally
Plan out your day. As much as is humanly possible, plan out how your time will be spent. Sure, we all have emergencies, but most of us spent all of our day reacting to circumstances rather than preparing for the day ahead. If you are saying, “well, I have to work, and my kids have ____. “ Me too! However, I have control (for the most part) of when I wake up or when I go to bed, so do you! We can plan out time with friends (this is required to have good friends and to be a good friend), for rest, exercise, and for prayer. It is no less valuable to schedule prayer time than for it to be spontaneous.
- Spend time with Jesus
To be a disciple is to follow someone in every way. It is to be in relationship with them and to live as they live. If we are to be a Christian, it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We get to know him through His words (I am always amazed at the way people either don’t know what he said, or attribute things to Him that he never said…or never would say!). Spend time in prayer, reading the scriptures, reading good books on spiritual formation, in a small group of followers of Jesus, in corporate worship, on and on this list could go. Be discipled by someone and allow someone to hold you accountable.
Sabbath is not something we talk much about. Unless someone is arguing for why Sunday is sacred (although the Sabbath biblically is from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) or something we don’t talk about Sabbath. This is a practice that I am admittedly not good at. Taking a Sabbath rest is not something that I have not done well…and I have paid for it. I sense myself having less to give those I love and less ability to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Not only should Sabbath become a practice of yours (and mine), but so should rest. Imagine the extra sleep we could get if we spent less time on so much of what we waste time on.
- Listen More
We all have an opinion, and most of us are happy to give it to others. What if we listened to others and didn’t just hear what they said, but we actually listened. This is the epitome of genuine conversation, good debate, and frankly good friendship.
- Serve Others
Find a person, group of people, or organization that is doing something that is making a positive change in your community and join them. Whether this is in your church, your neighborhood, or wherever, by making a positive change in the community it will help you see the world differently.
- Love others and be Kind
It sounds so simple, but I know it isn’t. I would take it a step further for the followers of Jesus, “do to others what you would have them do to you.” Seriously. We mostly get if you would not want the same thing done to you, don’t do it to others! Jesus’ words actually take it a step further and say, if you wish it was done for you, then do it for someone else!
This list is incomplete, it was getting long so I stopped writing. What would you add? Will you join with me in trying to practice these ways of living?