Patricia Hofer

Following Christ is more than external behaviors.

One need only look at the different lifestyles of John the Baptist and Jesus and Paul to see that externals such as these have little to do with Christianity. For example, people had to go to the wilderness to see John the Baptist. And they found him there wearing “clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist.” He ate “locusts and wild honey.” And he seemed to lack all diplomatic skills when he called the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers” (NRSV Matt. 3:1-7).

Jesus, in comparison, moved in the social circles of the towns, seeking out disciples and teaching in the synagogues. He turned water into wine at a wedding celebration (John 2:1-11). And we know also that Jesus drank wine, ate bread and fish, and wore conventional clothing for the time. And, he didn’t condemn or avoid Zacchaeus “a chief tax collector,” for example, but stayed at his house (Luke 19:1-10). This scene of comfort is far removed from John the Baptist’s encounters out in the wilderness.

Because such sociological behaviors didn’t appear integral to Christianity then, they shouldn’t be integral to it now. As Paul also says in Romans, “Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand” (NRSV 14:4). In teaching us how we are to stand or fall as servants of God, Jesus Christ offers the grace that cleanses within, showing his concern for our spiritual lives more than for our physical ones. Humility of soul, poverty of spirit, and purity of heart are his standard.

So whether we eat meat or not. Whether we drink fermented beverages or not. Whether we fast or not. Whether we exercise or not. Whether we wear blue jeans or tailored suits. Whether we smile a lot or not that often. Whether we hold our Bibles in our right hand or in our left. The presence of some external behavior or its absence should not cause division among us. And it doesn’t appear to have been the Christian way since the beginning, since our Lord walked and conversed with all types of people in all kinds of social settings. (Driving into the Dawn, chapter 39)

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