I feel absolutely no guilt about ignoring the Buddha’s teachings. Don’t get me wrong, the teachings have interesting points. There are some helpful ideas for living in his wisdom. But I feel no guilt because I am not a follower of the Buddha.
I am a follower of Jesus. That means I am learning to be like Him. I have intentionally chosen to model my life after his. It’s not easy; I fail often. Lately, however, I’ve seen some progress on some issues I struggled with for a long time. Over time, my knowledge of what it means to follow him has become more experiential, and not as abstract.
I believe everyone would live a better life and have a healthier soul if they followed Jesus. I believe him when he said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
I also get some people choose not to believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. They may believe Jesus was a good teacher and perhaps, a good man. Believing these things is very different than following him.
So it doesn’t surprise me when people who don’t follow Jesus don’t do his teaching. I’m not surprised when they hold grudges, when they pursue pleasure, when they spend money on more stuff to make them happy. It makes sense to me that they hate people, break promises, and surrender to their addictions. I understand why non-Jesus followers can be self-centered.
The troublesome part of this is I am a Jesus follower, and I struggle like the non-Jesus follower. I can hold a grudge, pursue pleasure, spend money on stuff, hate people, break a promise, and surrender to an addiction. That’s because I am incomplete. God is still at work in me.
What I need to do is grant grace to my fellow believers who also struggle. But I also need to speak a word of truth to them: we don’t need to judge the non-follower. God will take care of whatever judgment and conviction they needed. My job to love people who don’t follow Jesus in hopes that his love flowing through me will make an impact.
This is the uncomfortable corollary: you either follow Jesus or you don’t. There is no middle ground. No one can fall back on some comfortable notion of being a “church member.” None of us can say, “I want to go to heaven, but I will get around to following Jesus someday.” If you either take Jesus seriously, or you don’t take him at all.
This is part of the all or nothing aspect of following Jesus that turns people off. I get that. I can even respect that choice. Following Jesus is not a casual, get-around-to-it, journey. It requires energy, effort, and a passion.
Is it worth it? Is a life spent following Jesus the right kind of life to live? I bet my life on it – and eternity too.