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Following Jesus and doing right

All professing Christians should be able to acknowledge that living the Christian life is a process of growing in the faith and converting this growth to actively walking as Jesus would have us walk.

Yet too many professing Christians seem to think that they have “arrived” and do not need to grow as the Spirit continuously nudges each of us to a closer walk in accordance to Jesus’ commands.

Earl Chappell

Remember the words of Jesus to the rich young ruler found in Luke 18: 22 — “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

And remember the transformation experienced by Zacchaeus after meeting Jesus, as recorded in Luke 19:8 — “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

Both the rich young ruler and Zacchaeus shared some similar traits: wealth, status and attraction to Jesus. Each man had a different approach to Jesus. The rich young ruler was able to approach Jesus directly with his questions regarding heaven. Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a tree just to see Jesus pass by. Not recognizing his own deficiencies, the rich young ruler was instructed by Jesus as to what he needed to do. The price was too steep. Zacchaeus was no doubt surprised when Jesus called him down from the tree and invited himself to go to Zacchaeus’ house. As surprising as this may have been, Zacchaeus felt led to confess his sins and make reparations.

In a country where wealth seems to determine status, American Christians have been caught up in the metric where wealth seems to indicate righteous Christian living. Yet Jesus sees wealth as a stumbling block to entering the kingdom of God.

“Like Zacchaeus and unlike the rich young ruler, we must not allow ourselves to become set in stone, unwilling to change.”

Like Zacchaeus, and unlike the rich young ruler, we must not allow ourselves to become set in stone, unwilling to change.

One area in which my thoughts have changed greatly over the years regards the idea of reparations for slavery. Our ancestors formed many generations of forced slavery in the United States that continue to feed an inherent poverty for people of color today.

When I see my fellow white Americans get upset over a few words of criticism about the history of slavery, I wonder why we are so thin-skinned.

I understand that it may be considered a challenge to realize that the employment pool has been significantly increased for high-paying jobs when everyone is given a fair chance at those jobs. And I understand that it must be a challenge to the wealthy when they realize all Americans should have access to a health care system that cares for all. And yet I could not believe my ears back in the 1990s when I heard a conservative white woman express her distress that, if we had universal health care, she would have to wait to see her doctor.

“What should I as a professing Christian be doing to make my life reflect Jesus to all of those with whom I come in contact?”

The question that has challenged my Christian walk is this: What should I as a professing Christian be doing to make my life reflect Jesus to all of those with whom I come in contact? Retreating into my own “tribe” so that I will not come into contact with other human beings whom God has created is not an option.

Let us return to the basics of what it means to be Christ followers. The Golden Rule and the Great Commission are two places to begin.

Too many Christians have changed the Golden Rule to “do unto others before they do unto you” and the Great Commission to “take the gospel only to others that think (look, act) like us.”

Earl Chappell lives in Virginia Beach, Va., and has been a member of First Baptist Church of Norfolk since 1977.