At Streams of White Light in Darkened Corners, my friend Gerry asks, "So what does it look like when Jesus' teachings in Matthew 5-7 are lived out in His people?"
This is one of those things I have been wondering about a lot. I have seen, in my lifetime, all kinds of attempts to do that - live out Jesus' teachings. I've seen it in church programs. I've seen it in people's personal lives. I've heard endless arguments about it. Those who think that Jesus' teachings are admirable, but impossible. Those who take them as moral guidance. Those who develop programs to teach Jesus teachings, and hopefully demonstrate them, that seem wildly "successful" for a time; so that others flock to be part of them, or try to copy them where they are.
Oddly enough, the "living out" examples that have seemed to me to have been most authentic have usually been small groups of believers, and sometimes individuals, just living their lives. Not doing anything special. Not being rich or famous or successful. Just being themselves, often working hard just to make it through another day. Not even "trying" to "be like Jesus." Individuals, yes, but "churches" too. Little groups, sometimes too "small" and "poor" to support a pastor or build a nice building or have any formal programs; often composed of pretty much uneducated, simple folk.
And yet, there has been something about them that has caught my attention. Simple kindnesses, acceptance instead of judging, encouragement, gentleness, quick and genuine forgiveness, mercy. Just loving everyone they encounter in a quiet, real way. Daily, helping each other out quietly, watching out for each other and for others too, giving a hand when its needed, and not keeping accounts or expecting anything in return. Not attracting attention or success. And when I have looked at them, and interacted with them, I have been pretty sure that in some way I have met Jesus.
But still, I have run around trying to be like Jesus, imitate Jesus, do what would please Jesus, learn more about Jesus so I can "share Him" with others. Running around looking for a group or program or whatever that I can be part of. A "church" that "lives out Jesus' teachings." I guess I have looked to see what they are "doing." Even though those I have really seen Jesus in, just seem to have been "being."
I was really excited when I encountered Pastor Peter and the little gathering of the church on the streets of our community. I wanted to be part of something like that. I could see good things happening, people being "changed." I could see Jesus' teachings being lived out. I suppose I thought that it was all about what Peter, and the others, were "doing." I wanted to "do it" with them. And yes, I have "helped out" and all. But I found myself often feeling discouraged because I was not comfortable trying to do the things Pastor Peter does, the way he does them. Others I know have felt the same way; and yes, they - and I too - have sometimes tried to change things to "our way" of doing. But Peter keeps repeating, "I'm glad to have you here with us. We can do this together. But you have to be who God wants you to be. And you have to let me be who God wants me to be."
I am not Pastor Peter. I am not a big tatooed guy who used to deal drugs and be a bouncer at bars and drive a Harley. I'm not trained in nursing like he is. I'm not comfortable wandering back alleys by myself. He keeps telling those who want to help, that they need to be who God made them to be. And that if they want to be part of the "Another Chance Street Ministry" it must be because that is where God plants them, and it's only really possible with Jesus living in and through them, who and as they are.
And that's going to look different with every one of us, but if we are allowing Jesus to be who He is, the head of His body, and accept ourselves as who He has made us, then all our differences are going to come together. We don't need to compete, nor do we need to try and fit in and do what others are doing or what others want us to do. And the "street ministry" isn't any better or more useful or more "living out the teachings of Jesus" than what others in the whole group of believers that make up "the church at Penticton" are doing. We are all needed. We all need to let Jesus live out his life in each of us. He does the "coordinating." He IS the coordination, the center, the purpose, the way, the Life.
Slowly I am learning to stop trying. Slowly I am getting past "knowing about Jesus" and "doing things for Him." And instead, I am coming to "know Jesus" in relationship with Him and His body, His church; and to simply be who I am, the me He intended from the start, with Him living His life in and through me, through us.
So back to Gerry's question, "What does it look like when Jesus' teachings in Matthew 5-7 are lived out in His people?" Here's the answer I wrote in his comments section:
What does it look like? I'm beginning to think that it looks like more different things than we can imagine. Jesus living out his life in and through every believer, individually and corporately in his body... that is bound to be as creative as he, the Source of Life, is.
I have been getting more and more disillusioned trying to "be like" Jesus, or even "be like" others who have been held up (and admired) as the hands and face of Jesus. And so they may be, but they are each of them only, I'm thinking, one small aspect. We say we want others to see Jesus living in and through us ... but then we look around to see how that is working out in others, and try to copy that, instead of just letting Jesus do that, his way, in us.
If Jesus is to be seen by the world as he is, then he is going to use each of us, individually and corporately, to show various aspects or facets of him. Yes, if we are really allowing him to live his life in and through us, we will demontrate his love and mercy (and share in his suffering too) ... but how that "looks" will be amazingly varied and creative.
And not to be "judged" by others as better or worse or whatever! We should be rejoicing in how Jesus lives out his life in others, whatever that looks like, and also joyfully accept and eagerly participate in the way he chooses to live out his life in ourselves (individually, and living his life out with the others where he places us) as we are in relationship with him, without comparing to others. (Not to mention that it sure relieves me of pressure to perform, or to live up to others expectations, or to try to do things to please him, etc).
It's not a contest. It's not a life of imitation. It's not a plan or a goal that can be reached through a series of steps and actions. It's just "Christ in us." Jesus living His life, Father's life, in and through us, his children, his church, his people. And others seeing that life, seeing Him.