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    a woman lying at the feet of Jesus

    Impractical Christianity

    Christianity is not a system you work – it is a Person who works you. You don’t get it; he gets you.

    By Clarence Jordan

    January 4, 2023
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    • Ron Alfrey

      At last a great definition which centres on History or as I love to put His -Story it is a compelling short story that puts Christ where he should always be, centred in us ,not in a particular persuason ,we can choose what road we follow in where we prefer to worship by the way Christ in us is portraying his attributes and selfless love to others not easy to do but Persue the gospel message and convey it to others who are floundering in selfishness and anxiety because there is a void in their lives .

    • Edward Hamilton

      I'm thinking a bit about the paragraph where Jordan says that "we wouldn't be able to ask him anything", due to being overwhelmed by the experience of meeting Jesus. I think there's a sense in which that might be true with respect to many of the things we think we'd want to ask *now* -- they'd suddenly seem much less important and not worth bothering with. But I also suspect that we'd see other things as much *more* important, and have a burning desire to ask a new and completely different set of questions. Jesus always seems deeply moved and not at all impatient when people come to him with requests in the gospels, at least when they are unselfish and bold in faith. I'm reminded of the conversation in the Magician's Nephew where Lewis points out that Aslan could provide for anyone's needs perfectly, based on his own omniscience, but "I've a sort of an idea he likes to be asked".

    The following excerpt is from The Inconvenient Gospel: A Southern Prophet Tackles War, Wealth, Race, and Religion.


    You can’t put Christianity into practice. You can’t make it work. As desperately as it is needed in this poor, broken world, it is not a philosophy of life to be “tried.” Nor is it a social or ethical ideal which has tantalized humankind with the possibility of attainment.

    For Christianity is not a system you work – it is a Person who works you. You don’t get it; he gets you. Jesus said, “I am…the life” (John 14:6). Now life isn’t something you try out for a while and then exchange for something else if it doesn’t prove practical. You either have it or you don’t. And if your Christianity is the kind that has to be “worked,” you don’t have the real thing.

    For when you look long and deeply into the face of Jesus, that compulsion of love falls on you, and you find yourself vowing that you would follow him and serve him – practical or impractical, wise or foolish, for better or worse – unto the death.

    a woman lying at the feet of Jesus

    Andrey Mironov, Christ and the Sinner, oil on canvas, 2011

    Somehow or other we simply must realize this. Already too many people are thinking of Christianity as a glorified scheme which will gather up all the frayed ends of our social, industrial, economic, and political reforms into a golden fabric of peace and plenty. “Everything else has failed,” people say, “let’s try Christianity” – as though it were a jigsaw puzzle awaiting human ingenuity to put it together! We talk of reconstruction; Jesus talks about rebirth. The city of God is not built up from below; it comes down from the Father.

    Christianity is more than a scheme to be tried – it is a guiding star. Christians are those who locate and direct themselves by Christ, just as a navigator takes bearings from a fixed star. What Jesus taught and accomplished among us has given us our knowledge of God. His word and way are more dependable than the North Star, and whenever we navigate by him, we can be sure of arriving. By getting our sight on Jesus, we get our bearings; we are no longer “lost,” for we know where we are and where we are going. And it isn’t the star that is practical or impractical, but the navigator who accepts or rejects its guiding light.

    Christians are those who locate and direct themselves by Christ, just as a navigator takes bearings from a fixed star.

    But at the time Jesus spoke these words, I suppose the world considered those who followed him as foolish, impractical, idealistic, fanatic. He made them forsake jobs and homes; he led them across racial boundaries when the time was anything but ripe; he turned them into peacemakers when the popular thing to do was to hate. And in return, he rewarded them with a cross!

    Would any but fools follow such a one? Yet they couldn’t help it. Never once did they ask: “Aren’t we going a bit too fast? Won’t we do more harm than good by stirring up the people?” Perhaps as Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem and certain death, Thomas spoke for them all when he said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). The statement of a fool – a fool for Christ!

    Such compulsion is not the product of reason but of love. And love has its roots in fellowship. They were with him, they followed him, they knew him, they loved him. This fellowship with him changed them, empowered them. And herein is the clue to our weakness and the key to our possibilities.

    For what we need more than goods is God; more than a living is life. Even though we build with our own hands a new world, if we find not God, our lives still are voids darkened by the lurking shadows of our own selfishness and echoing to the whimperings of children who won’t admit they are lost.

    Have you ever imagined what you would do if you could be alone with Christ for a few hours? You think you would ask him all kinds of questions and discuss with him the many perplexing problems which plague our fear-haunted world. But you wouldn’t. For a while you would just sit and look at him. Then, as though drawn by a magnet, you would come near him and kneel. And while you knelt, he would put his hands upon you in loving forgiveness, and you would feel indescribable peace and power surging through you. You would lift up your eyes and look into his. But you wouldn’t, you couldn’t, ask him anything.

    You would be in that silent, wordless fellowship which love alone interprets. Fellowship with him is all the heaven one seeks, the answer to all problems, the goal of all yearnings, the fulfilment of all desire.


    This article first appeared in Young People’s Quarterly in 1948, “written from personal experience as director of Koinonia Farm, a Christian agricultural missionary project in Georgia.”

    Contributed By Clarence Jordan Clarence Jordan

    A farmer, preacher, and bible scholar, Clarence Jordan founded Koinonia Farm, a pacifist interracial Christian community in Georgia. He is the author of the Cotton Patch Gospel, a translation of the New Testament into the vernacular of the American South.

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