Are you 100% sold out to Jesus?
I dunno how often I heard this expression preached at me as I was growing up and I dare say I used it – or its derivatives – a fair bit as a youth pastor too. It was never enough to just be a Christian or just a follower of Jesus. You had to be a certain type of Christian.
100% sold out.
Jesus had to be ‘number 1’ in your life…
If you’ve been around evangelicalism for a while then I’m sure you are familiar with this language. I’m not sure if it’s still used around the place today, but I’d dare say it is because it appeals to our inner zealot.
I remember as a teenager hearing sermons that called me to be 100% devoted to Jesus – to give my whole life over to him and I would think ‘Ok’… but then I’d wonder ‘Am I really 100% devoted?… How can I tell?… What if I’m only 99%? Will that do?…
It was all a bit confusing and for someone with an ‘all or nothing’ type of personality I had regular times of thinking if I can’t do it ‘right’ then better not to do it at all. Keith Green didn’t help the cause with lyrics like ‘if you can’t come to me every day then don’t bother coming at all’. (Thanks Stephen McAlpine for the reminder this week!)
If language shapes our realities, then I’d suggest that this language was probably quite unhelpful in forming disciples of Jesus.
Yes – unhelpful. And if you still do it then you should stop it – now.
Every time we call people to 100% devotion to Christ we set them up for certain failure – certain failure. To be sure Jesus called people to follow him – to die to self and take up our cross – to love him more than father or mother and so on, but I don’t think he meant what we seem to mean when we say these things, because Jesus welcomed people wherever they were in faith. He commended the faith of the (pagan?) centurion, he accepted the failings of his closest disciples and he rebuked the apparently exceptional faith of the Pharisees. I mean if anyone had the whole ‘100%’ thing going on it was these fellas.
The crudity of these words just doesn’t acknowledge the raw, perpetually broken nature of our humanity, or our natural ebbs and flows in faith.
The call to ‘give all’ even seems to suggest we can somehow ‘will ourselves’ into a place of devotion to Christ. Would that be our works gaining us approval with God – at least perceived approval?…
So… What if I am in your church and not 100% devoted to Jesus? I’m just a 90 percenter…
Is it ok to be one of those people? To acknowledge that even in my super duper ultra holy Jesus centred life there is still an element of selfishness – or a part of me that is mildly unredeemed?
Can I still be a disciple if I struggle with doubt… porn… greed… anger…? What if I struggle with all those things at the same time?… That’s gotta put me below the pass mark – surely?
Then again, what if I’m a complete and utter screw up, but in my own stumbling, bumbling way I am doing the best I can? Is it ok to be ‘13%’ sold out to Jesus because frankly that’s all I can do right now?
And who actually gets to measure these percentages anyway? Is there an online test I can sit? (Its ok – I just checked and there’s not.)
Would I be welcome in your church if I am a flawed disciple?… A sinful, broken, lost hopeless cause?…
Would Jesus still welcome me even if your church wouldn’t?
Ok – so that question is rhetorical. You know the answer to it. And if we know the answer to that one then it actually makes the rest null and void. It speaks of his grace and our tendency to veer towards shades of legalism – even if in the guise of ‘hard core discipleship’.
Maybe rather than calling people to ‘sold out’, 100%, absolute devotion we just call them to follow Jesus and leave it to the Spirit to call them on into pathways of conformity to him that no other person could.
Maybe we should examine our rhetoric and see whether these are actually things Jesus said or if we have coined his ideas in ways he never intended.
I can’t imagine Jesus as someone to set you up for failure and then heap you with guilt because you didn’t reach an unattainable goal. That does sound a lot like a bunch of people Jesus didn’t get on with all that well.
I don’t think Jesus is constantly measuring our degrees of devotion to see if we qualify but I do think he is cheering us on when we give whatever faith and devotion we can muster.