being drawn in

This weekend I was looking at my journal entries from last October and noticed this one, which seems to elaborate on some of my comments about "Jesus' community":

Jesus promised the “kingdom of God” experience to those who follow him in a life of radical giving and complete dependence on God. This is God’s gift to us, and only God can make it happen. The experience certainly seems like a miracle. Because most everyone around us does not live the kind of life Jesus taught.

That raises the question of how to interact with those who do not follow Jesus’ way, or who only follow it to some extent. The more extreme the giving and vulnerability, the fewer that practice it. But the path to more giving and more dependence on God is usually a gradual one, so any steps in that direction should be encouraged. Jesus always spoke well of those who gave, who let go of some of their own wealth and self-sufficiency, even if they did not yet give everything. This was a good step. But, at the same time, Jesus was still not “satisfied” with simply giving from our excess. He continued to set the example of radical giving, calling everyone to keep taking the next step.

And Jesus’ life of dependence did not only set the example, but also helped others enter into it by beginning to give. Many who did not leave everything and follow Jesus were inspired to at least begin to give by supporting him and his followers. This offered them the experience of giving, and also brought them closer to Jesus, to know him better. To these, Jesus was thankful and accepted what they chose to give. But he did not direct them to remain as benefactors, to continue to gather wealth so they could share a portion with others, even if it was to his benefit. To all, Jesus said, “Follow me.” Whatever people chose to give was good, a beginning perhaps, that brought them into contact with Jesus’ way of life. But (whatever their particular gifts) everyone was called to be like Jesus in radical giving, in embracing vulnerability, and in complete dependence on God.

From this we can see how others can be drawn in to Jesus’ way. People first see something in the faith of Jesus’ followers and also see their vulnerability and need. So they are inspired to offer some help. This gives them the experience of God’s love, God working through them to support his own children, and also exposes them to Jesus’ way of life. If they then open themselves to this life, they will progressively give more, becoming more vulnerable and dependent themselves. And so they too will become inspirations to encourage giving, both by their example and their need. As people grow in this way, their gifts change. They have less material possessions to share, but their lives become a more valuable gift, both as an inspiration calling others to enter into God’s love and help care for his children and as a model for faith by which we become (and live as) God’s children.

This progression is like a cycle of life which continues to draw others into Jesus’ way.