Losing Control (tenth in a series)

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. (C.  S. Lewis)

The strange thing about Christianity is that some people will think it odd, or even dangerous, if you do exactly what Jesus instructed his disciples to do and follow him as your Lord and Savior. As I wrote two weeks ago in my post, Losing Control (eighth in a series), some Christians think of their faith as something they add on to their life; it does not remake and reorder their priorities or utterly transform their way of thinking and living. Faith in Jesus is something they have or hold, like an opinion or a hobby. It’s a part of their life, but it does not define their entire life; it does not shape every thought and action.

The Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew. James Tissot, 1886-94

If, on the other hand, you surrender your will to Jesus, then you are someone who is held by your faith. It is first and foremost in your life and directs and informs everything about you. All other relationships, commitments, interests and obligations are secondary. Jesus is Master of your life, not you, or anyone or anything else.

However, such allegiance is often seen as a threat by people for whom Jesus is their Savior, but not their Lord – a phenomenon I wrote about in the third installment of this series. Some people, even other Christians, will resent the placing of Jesus ahead of all else in your life.

Perhaps you have some experience with this. You may have family members who do not understand the implications of Jesus being the Lord of your life. They may feel your faith is compromising your relationship with them or taking too much of your time. Other people may feel as though you are judging them because they realize when they compare themselves to you they are not as committed to Jesus. Even within Christian congregations there can be tension and misunderstanding between those who are held by faith and those who simply hold it.

A statue of Emperor Constantine the Great. He issued an edict in 313 A.D. which proclaimed religious toleration throughout the Roman empire.

The seeds of this tension were planted in the days before the fall of the Roman empire, not long after persecution for religious reasons ceased and Christians were given the freedom to live out their faith in peace. In time, more and more people converted to Christianity, some for reasons that had more to do with fitting in socially and economically, than with a desire to follow after Jesus. Ironically, Christian faith proved to be a convenient way to cement an empire. But expediency, or the desire to fit in socially, is never a good reason to convert to Christianity.

So within the church today there are those for whom their faith is but an aspect of their lives, like the political party they favor or the college team for which they root, and those who are yoked to Jesus. This difference in the level of commitment to Jesus can create strife in congregations and between family members.

But people would not feel so threatened by your allegiance to Christ if they understood that by placing Jesus first, all of your other relationships and commitments now benefit because he is Lord of your life. For instance, as you trust, more and more, that Jesus will work for good in all things (Romans 8:28) you will no longer need to insist on your own way. You will become increasingly selfless and less and less self-centered. Your love will have a sacrificial quality about it and you will be more calm and contented, regardless of your circumstances.

So the best way to address any tension or strife that may develop in your relationships because you’ve started to “lose control” is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work of forming the character of Christ within you. If you are anything like me, the difference in how you are living your life will be noticeable and of a matter of curiosity or interest to those around you. If you wait on Jesus, he will give you an opportunity to show those who are skeptical or resentful how, by losing their life, for his sake, they will finally find it (Matthew 16:25b). In the end, the best defense is one that is lived out daily in faith and humility.

Next week: The first steps in losing control.

About Claudia Dickson Greggs

I am an Anglican priest, author, wife and mother. Writing and teaching about Christian life and faith are passions of mine.
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2 Responses to Losing Control (tenth in a series)

  1. Rick says:

    Thanks for this installment, Claudia. It does describe the paradox we see in the church today of those who do things the world’s way, because they’ve just added “Christianity” to their lives, and those who seek to do things God’s way, because they’ve given themselves to Jesus as His servants.

    Interestingly, you mention this condition in the Church of people joining to be socially acceptable, etc., starting when Constantine made Christianity a legal religion in the Roman Empire. I know those being persecuted before this time welcomed this, but as you say, that made it socially acceptable to be a Christian, and there were many who “became Christians” simply for social or other reasons than that they had met Jesus and had become one of His followers, one of His servants. As more and more time passed, having unbelievers in the churches became a liability to the Church, and still is.

    And this brings to mind another way we get unbelievers in the churches is through the use of manipulation to get more members (29 Saved Today!). It seems to me that the Holy Spirit doesn’t need our help in drawing folks to Christ, other than our prayers for them, and providing the opportunity for them to accept that invitation. We know from Jesus’s parable that the church will always have those tares in it, but we don’t have to help bring them in. 😉 It causes me to wonder if those using these worldly tactics are not tares themselves.

    • Rick, I agree — our ministry as Christians is to bring in the harvest the Lord has already sown (Matthew 9:37-38). Only the Holy Spirit can ready a person’s heart to receive our witness. Prayer is an essential component of evangelism because God knows exactly what a person needs to hear and when they are ready to turn to Jesus and accept him as their Savior. Our pride, however, gets in the way of our discerning what someone needs to hear from us and when. Yet another reason why we all need to “lose control!” Thank you for your comment! Claudia

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