I had an interesting conversation the other day with someone who wondered if we Episcopalians could learn and thing or two from certain Evangelicals who are more than comfortable in asking (demanding?) whether one has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Are we Episcopalians too reluctant to claim and use the name of Jesus? We also recognized that the Evangelical approach has become an enormous stumbling block to many who are put off by it and by other assumptions about what Christianity is about.
What, we wondered, if we took another tact, one that asked of ourselves and others whether we are willing to surrender to God’s will as made known in Jesus Christ? There is a significance difference. For one thing, I have no idea what accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior means. It has become so much of a bumper sticker phrase that, for me, it has lost all meaning. It has a ring of certainty to it that implies that whatever it means, it answers all questions and is itself the destination for all who will be saved, but from what and for what? It also seems to imply a sense of ownership. Having accepted Jesus as MY Lord and Savior, I now own him in some way. I doubt that’s what they mean, but that’s what it sounds like.
Surrendering to God’s will as made known through Jesus Christ is another thing altogether. It’s a little scary. It requires us to inquire what we can know about God’s will through what Jesus said and did. Even a cursory reading of the gospels leads in many directions that drive us back into Hebrew scripture, forward into other texts of the New Testament, and deep into our own hearts and minds, and the contexts of our lives. All those directions cross over and under each other in confusing patterns. To make a comparison, they can take on the appearance of an impenetrable maze when, in fact, they are a labyrinth (three dimensional) that, if followed, leads unerringly to God’s presence, but not by any straight path.
Surrendering to God’s will requires knowing Jesus, not accepting him. If requires walking with him, talking with him, eating with him, and trusting that he is God incarnate who loves us. He is a most confusing Savior who desires both to be worshipped as God incarnate and take up residence in our hearts as our most intimate companion. Surrendering embarks us on an adventure in life and living where our plans and intentions engage in unpredicted and unpredictable events and outcomes. Like the most romantic of adventures, danger lurks, and injury and death are real possibilities. But so also is a fullness of life beyond measure, and the assurance of our safe arrival home.
I’m not sure how well that will sell out in the religious market place, but perhaps it can inspire us to be more bold about claiming and using the name of Jesus. Who knows? Maybe there will be others who will want to enter into such a life with us. We don’t go on our adventures alone. We go in the presence of one another. In our best moments we lift each other up, help each other with our burdens, and learn to live in respectful tolerance of our many differences. We celebrate our victories and mourn our losses. Sometimes we lose heart or become bored. We abandon our adventures and sit on the wayside watching life pass us by. By and by Jesus always comes along to sit with us for a spell, and then together we begin again.
That’s a little of what a life of surrender looks like. Wonder if can sell?