“Has anyone seen Jesus? I know that he is around here somewhere. He is always with us.”
Jesus’ parents were traveling home after the festival of the Passover (Luke 2.41-51). It was two days before they noticed that he was not with them. They assumed that he had to be with them. Jesus is always around, right?
Our assumptions, schedules and routines can have that effect on us. We are so used to Jesus that we don’t even look for him. We don’t keep an eye on him. He is not walking with us, but we expect that he is somewhere in the group, that he is behind us and will catch up eventually. We figure that we’ll see him at some point. “God is with us.”
It is so easy for the order to be reversed, for us to believe that Jesus is following our footprints. We have been following Jesus for a while now; we know the way. We can take it from here.
But this kind of familiarity is dangerous, when the expectation of presence is assumed and not pursued, when we do not look for Jesus. Our familiarity — because we know what Jesus would do (and we have a bracelet to prove it) — can quickly cause us to take his presence and his words for granted.
We stop repeating after Christ because we know what he said. We soon trade his words for ours because, well, we’ve known Jesus for a long time and if Jesus were here, we know what he would say. Soon, we are not using his red-lettered words at all.
When we think that we know a thing well, it makes sense that we need not study it anymore. Likewise, when we have been in a relationship for a long time, it is tempting to assume that we know everything about that person. However, it is no proof of progression to say that we have God all figured out. Familiarity can cause forgetfulness and consistent forgetfulness can result in meaninglessness.
The Church falls into this category because it seems that we have it all figured out. We know the order of worship and Robert’s Rules of Order. We have read the Bible. We have gone to seminary. We have been pastoring or serving in ministry for years.
We grew up in church. Its calendar is in our phone. We know the routine, what to do and say. So, we keep walking.
But now it feels as if we are waiting on Jesus to catch up. The Scriptures are behind the times. The culture has changed. We need to keep up with technology. So we’ll just walk ahead.
Leave the Church behind. It’s old and doesn’t know any better. It will catch up eventually or die apart from us. Besides, it’s Jesus’ church; let him deal with it (Matthew 16.18).
Or it is a part of the establishment that has lost its credibility and, consequently, its control over us. For some of us, because the Church is known less for the movement of the Spirit and more for theological red tape, we associate the Body of Christ with the latest spiritual tragedy. “Those poor church folks.”
Besides that, its religious leaders are hypocrites. We’ve got their number. Its traditions are a sign of things past. “That was so last millennia.” We don’t need to carry them; they will only slow us down.
We need to keep on schedule if we are to stay in step with social media and all things political. But if we slow down a bit, we could catch our breath in order to confess that we believe technology would beat God in a race, that we could get there quicker with GPS or Waze, rather than follow Christ’s footsteps. We could confess that we are guilty of toeing our political party’s line, which should not be confused with carrying Christ’s cross. In our haste to progression, we may not have made time to separate what belongs to Caesar from what belongs to Christ.
But Jesus never ran for president. That’s not where the change happens for him. So, be careful of the group you affiliate with as Jesus is the good shepherd of sheep — not donkeys or elephants (John 10.11). No zookeeper here.
There is so much that we assume comes along with Christianity. Words that don’t define Christ but our perspective on the faith. We are conservative, moderate and liberal, Democrat, Republican and Independent. We are socially colored beige, brown, black, red, yellow and white. We are urban and suburban, evangelical and mainline, complementarian and egalitarian. And yet, there is one Jesus, one set of footprints, a kind of one cross that fits all gospel.
I look behind me and wonder how we got here. What got us moving in this direction and what steps did we take? I look ahead and I wonder how far we are willing to go. Where are we headed and who is up front? Where are we progressing to exactly?
And is anyone looking for Jesus? Or are we so caught up in our agendas, our plans and the assumption that he is somewhere in our group and will turn up eventually that we don’t think it’s constructive or a good use of time to form a search party?
I wonder if we would even notice or care that Jesus was missing. Would we have the guts to turn around and look for him? Would we whisper it to friends or would we put out an all-points bulletin? Or are we so far ahead or too progressive to believe that we could lose him in the very faith that we espouse?