The rugged individualist.
It’s a popular motif in literature and film. The rebel with a cause…or even without one. Our culture idolizes the break-out personality, the trend-setter, the leader who carves his or her way through any obstacle.
And to some extent, that can be good.
Progress can come from examining the “way we’ve always done it” and asking whether that’s still the best way.
Years ago, when I was picking the college major that would set the course for my working life, I wanted to major in chemistry. I loved high-school chemistry. It was fun to work in the lab. It was fun learning how things worked. But girls didn’t normally go into science. One of my mother’s friends even told me I could always change my mind when I told her what my major was.
I stayed with my decision, and it lead to a career where going to work was as much fun as any hobby I had.
But sometimes I want to do things my way mainly because I think I know better than the person defining the rules. I want to be in charge.
It can be a good thing to try to change the rules when the one setting them is human, but what about when the instructions come from God?
This week, I was reading in the Gospel of John. The words Jesus spoke during his last meal with his disciples before the crucifixion are for us as well.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.” (John 13:13 (NIV))
Acknowledging Jesus as a wonderful teacher isn’t hard. Even people who think he’s only a dead rabbi who taught two thousand years ago know and admire some of what he taught.
It’s good to be generous and help other people when they are in need.
It’s not my right to be passing judgement on other people.
Love your enemies. Well that one goes a bit far, but you should at least be civil to them.
“Teacher” means someone telling me some information, but I have the option of acting on it or not.
So “Teacher” is easy enough to accept, but “Lord?”
“Lord” means someone has the right to tell me what is right and wrong and to command me to act accordingly.
In a culture that stresses the individual’s right to choose, the concept of “Lord” draws opposition.
Some of the commands are hard, and some of them, frankly, many wouldn’t want to obey even if they were easy.
Love my enemies? Forgive those who hurt me…or I’m not going to be forgiven? Go beyond just forgiving and actually pray for them and deliberately do what I can to make life good for them?
That’s too hard. At least it is if the Spirit isn’t helping me do it. My natural self wants mercy for me and punishment for those who hurt me.
Jesus said more than once if we love him, we’ll obey his commands. We’ll let him be our Lord.
He even went on to tell us the summary of his commands: Love each other.
Not something I can do on my own, but God himself can give me the ability. All I need to do is stop insisting that I must do things on my own terms, that I must be in charge.
And God will help me release my death grip on the steering wheel when I’m willing to listen to his teaching and follow Him instead of insisting I must be in the driver’s seat. There’s peace and joy to be found in going along for the ride.
Do you find it easy to call Jesus “Teacher” and “Savior” but struggle with him being your “Lord?”