The eccentricity of following Jesus

Following Jesus introduces tension into our lives. We live in a world that is at odds with God, and we are well trained to live exactly as our world dictates. The call to be a Christian is a call to come out from our culture and live a different way. It is a call to a high-contrast relationship with our culture. When we do that, tension arises. But not all tension is bad.

The monks of the ancient desert understood well that they were entering into a high-contrast existence filled with good tension.  John Chryssavgis tells us the monks were willing to do anything it took to re-establish a lost order. What was that lost order? The existence of Adam before he fell into sin. That means complete wholeness, and utter harmony with God, people, and creation. There are stories of the monks learning to live very contentedly in the harsh desert. It is said of St. Antony that over time, he persuaded the animals in his region to live at peace with him and no longer disturb him.

The monks were aware that they would be accused of eccentricity. They cared less about this than their goal of re-establishing the lost order.

I believe most Christians in America think the best they can expect is a generally good life and maybe some sporadic inspiration from God. We set our sights too low. What if we focused on regaining the lost order of Adam in paradise before the fall? How would that affect our lives?

I also think too many of us are unwilling to be radically different from the people around us. We want to make sense to people. We want them to like us. We curry people's favor and in that effort, we keep God at arm's length. What if we were okay with being perceived as eccentric? Maybe even a little crazy?

But the desert monks question who is really crazy here. If the ways of the world represent death to us and the ways of God represent life, then the real craziness lies in embracing death over life. And real sanity is being willing to lose all things to gain life. Jesus said,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple... Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear. (Luke 14:26-27, 35)

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