375: ON IMITATING JESUS

“A warm welcome to the iconoclastic Zingcreed blog. It’s Christian and it’s atheist; it’s not christian and it’s not atheist. i hope that’s clear. (I knew i shouldn’t have had that wine with my supper!)

When I was a young Christian (Anglican, if you must know – it was  a class thing in this country. Workers were non-conformists; middle classes were C.of E., and Irish were Catholics. That was in the old days when people still went to church in Britain) I used to try and obey what the bible said because that was the right thing to do. God’s will was expressed through the words of Paul and Jesus in that book, and to lead a good life one tried to be like Jesus. Except he seemed rather distant to me. How could I heal lepers or feed the 5000 anyway? But I met someone on the way to a Billy Graham rally in Swansea, who lived on handouts instead of working, because the bible said somewhere that the lord would provide. Seemed like a risky strategy to me. I wouldn’t give him a penny. (Billy Graham didn’t appear by the way, we got George Beverley Shea instead – what a marvellous voice that man had.  His “He’s got the whole wide world in his hands ” was just amazing.)
Back to the topic, which I hope you find enlightening.”
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

On Imitating Jesus
(edited by Peter Turner)

Another American Christian who has made an impact on this side of the pond is John Howard Yoder. In his “The Politics of Jesus” (i) he has some surprising things to say about trying to be like Jesus. I assumed there was a consensus in Christian circles that (a) one tried to obey the written precepts of the religion, and (b) one tried to live a Christ-like life.

After quoting examples where Paul writes of suffering like Christ (p.94) Yoder goes on to say, “Let us note the absence of the concept of imitation or mimicking of Jesus’ lifestyle as a general pastoral or moral guideline. Its imagery is more mystical and structural than ‘discipleship’. It affirms an inner or formal parallelism of character or intent.  Such a concept is found in many religions; it is present in the Old Testament. But, the concept of imitation is not applied by the New Testament.

  • There is in the New Testament no Franciscan glorification of barefoot itinerancy.
  • Even when Paul argues the case for celibacy it never occurs to him to appeal to the example of Jesus.
  • Jesus is thought in his earlier life to have worked as a carpenter; yet never, even when he explains at length why he earns his way as an artisan (1 Cor. 9) does it come to Paul’s mind that he is imitating Jesus.
  • Jesus’s familiarity with rural life and fishermen’s lives, his leading his disciples to the wilderness has often been appealed to by advocates of rural life and church camping; but not in the New Testament.
  • His formation of a small group of disciples whom he taught through months of close contact has been claimed as a model pastoral method; his teaching in parables  has been made a model of graphic communication; there have been efforts to imitate his prayer life or his 40 days in the desert: but not in the New Testament.

Only at one point, only on one subject – but then consistently, universally, – is Jesus our example: in his cross.”

As another writer has said “To follow the historical Jesus consists not of the task of becoming like him or doing what he might have done but rather  the task of genuinely becoming who we are and doing what we do.” (ii)

Sources:
(i)Yoder, J.H. “The Politics of Jesus” Eerdmans 2nd edition (1994) p.95,113,130
(ii) Galston, David “Embracing the human Jesus. A wisdom path for contemporary Christianity” Polebridge Press (2012) p.118

Related Zingcreed Posts:
Naked Jesus – a cock and bull story?
Nazareth a.k.a.”Nowheresville”

[374, i&l, t&c]

 

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2 comments

    1. Hi
      Thank you for quoting Zingcreed. It’s nice to know I’m not out on a limb here. Feel free to copy anything else you want.
      In solidarity
      Peter Turner

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