Rick McKinley: Quit asking how and starting asking who!

Extract of Rick McKinley’s book “A Kingdom Called Desire”. Click here to visit original post at Imago Dei blog.

In the West, Christians have leaned too heavily on the pragmatics of how. When we assume the answer we most deeply need is an answer outside of us that only an expert can give, we become a paralyzed people waiting to be told what to do next:

Go to church on Sunday? Check.
Belong to small group? Check.
Read Bible and pray daily? Check.

Wear appropriate Christian apparel, listen to Christian radio, home school, work in the soup kitchen, write letters to missionaries, take casserole to church potluck, drink fair-trade coffee, work to alleviate extreme poverty, eat vegetarian, recycle, sign human rights petition? Check, check, check, and check.

When we turn following Jesus into a product instead of a relationship, the only question we end up asking is, how do we do that? And we look for clues in what everyone else is doing and do that too. Pretty soon we are doing all sorts of things but we don’t know why anymore.

I realize this is a tremendous oversimplification, but time and time again it comes back to haunt us. Truthfully a lot of the books we buy in regards to following Jesus are couched in this how-to language as well: Will someone out there tell me how to follow Jesus?

Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time answering that question.

I find that to be really hopeful. When he did answer the how question, he did so in a way that was very personal to the one he was talking to. For example, a rich young ruler came and asked Jesus how to gain eternal life (Luke 18:18 – 27). Jesus told him to keep the commandments, to which the man basically replied, “Been there. Done that!” He had a checklist for salvation, licking his pencil as he marked off each step.

So Jesus masterfully tapped into the deeper question of desire in the rich young man’s life. The question is: What are you really putting your security in? What do you really think is going to save you? For that rich young man, the answer was his own personal wealth and his ability to do the right things. That’s where his security was. And when Jesus pointed out one area where the young man couldn’t do the right thing, the man gave up.

In other places Jesus simply asked people, “What do you want?” or “Do you want to get well?” — questions that pushed right past the how-to questions and went directly to the issues most important to the person, the issues of desire.

“Do you really want to follow me or do you need your money to make you feel secure?”

“Do you want to be healed or do you need to be sick because you don’t believe anyone will care about you if you are made well?”

The questions are deep, involved, not simple or reduced, and they cannot be packaged into a one-size-fits-all container. What do you desire most? Do you really want Jesus, or do you want beauty, a career, success, and happy relation- ships? Do you really want Jesus, or do you just want to fill in some boxes to prove that you are saved?

To the rich young ruler, Jesus said, primarily, “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). Get rid of the checklists. Stop thinking you can buy your way into heaven. Follow me. Quit asking how and starting asking who!

Rick McKinley will be speaking at the “At the Corner of…” conference 2011. Click here to register.