Sunday, October 11, 2009

I'm Christian like the Olive Garden Is Italian

What would Jesus do today? What would Jesus have us do in our lives? What would it look like to follow Jesus' teachings in our jobs, schools, etc.? How would we act? How would we treat the poor? How would we vote? Well, Ed Dobson spent one year trying to find out.

After reading AJ Jacobs' book My Year of Living Biblically and being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease, Dobson decided to spend some of his shortened life doing an experiment. He decided to live one year according to the life and teachings of Jesus. He ate kosher. He observed the Sabbath. He gave money to the poor. He tried his best to live his life like Jesus.

Christians talk about wanting to be Christ-like, but it's tough to follow this wily character. Sure, nobody said it would be easy. But that still doesn't take away the reality of the challenge. Jesus is one difficult guy to follow. Sometimes I wonder if it's possible. Can we really be Christ-like in our day-to-day lives of work, sports, school, etc. Sometimes I wonder if I really am "Christian." Perhaps, to paraphrase AJ Jacobs, "I'm Christian in the same way that the Olive Garden is Italian." It's kinda close, but not authentic. Christian lite. Or maybe I'm just a cheap substitute for the real thing. Just being honest. Living out the teachings of Jesus in real life is...absurd. Are we really supposed to do stuff like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, and visiting those who are in prison? Sounds pretty extreme.

Jesus was a radical - and so were his teachings. His example and message should shake us up and wake us up to a different way of living. That's part of the point. Repent. Change. Take a different direction in life. And that's what Dobson did. One example of the radical change that Dobson went through was who he voted for. After graduating from Bob Jones University (fundamentalist college), serving as an executive for the Moral Majority (right wing political organization), and voting for Republicans all of his life, he decided to vote for Barack Obama. This doesn't mean that Jesus would have voted for Obama. It just means that after Dobson tried to apply Jesus' teachings to the issues of the day, he decided that Obama's positions more closely follow the teachings of Jesus than the other candidates. And this goes beyond politics. It points to the fact that we should all be ready to be changed and challenged by the teachings of Jesus no matter who we are or what we believe. Jesus was a radical - and Christians are called to join his radical movement called the Church. While we don't all have to vote for the same people, we should all be prepared to change our lives, actions, decision, and maybe even our voting pattern.

Being Christian means being changed. It should change how we treat people who are different than us. It should change how we treat those who are less privileged. It should change how we think about political issues. It should change how we think about how we treat our friends, family, co-workers, classmates, etc. It should change us because we're being asked to live by values - love, justice, mutuality, etc. - that often aren't affirmed in some aspects of our culture and churches. That's what makes Jesus - and following Jesus - so radical. And we're asked to be fellow radicals with Jesus. It ain't easy for us and it wasn't easy for Dobson. But it sure makes for an interesting journey of faith.

If you'd like to check out more about Ed Dobson's story of trying to live like Jesus, check out his book The Year of Living Like Jesus and/or watch the video below. Thought-provoking and action-provoking stuff.

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