Longer ago than I care to think, while at university, I (and several others) were stirred by a piece called The Fellowship of the Unashamed. It’s of somewhat uncertain provenance with several varying origin stories floating around on the internet. But it was the sort of stuff that got the blood pumping amongst young people who were tired and fed up with middling mediocrity and passion-less Christianity. It was a rallying call to be anything other than lukewarm for Christ. It was a call to embrace world-changing commitment to Christ and by golly this was the sort of stuff we wanted to be made of.
Slightly more than twenty years later and it’s easy to have a pretty jaded view of that sort of youthful naive enthusiasm. The truth is, and I think this will probably apply to the majority of those that rose to its unflinching resolution, we have looked backed, we have let up, we have slowed down, we have backed away. In other words we haven’t followed through.
Chances are there have been detours aplenty, compromises more than a few. Some will have flinched, some will have been distracted and some will have turned away. De-conversion I think it’s called.
We have indeed shut up & slowed up and perhaps the certainty about whether Jesus really will recognise one of His own may well have been readjusted to a faint hope that showing up might just be enough.
In more ways than one it is apparent that I am not a member of this unashamed fellowship with it’s brilliant purity and red-hot determination. Instead my passion fades depending on how tired I am and my commitment is diluted depending on how whether I need to do the shopping or pick up the kids from football. My comfort levels have risen to match those of many around me. I hesitate, negotiate, ponder and meander. Sometimes I do all of those things in one day.
But as I reflect back on this poem, I notice how very me centred it is. It is entirely about what I will do and what I will be like. It is a series of declarations made on the mountain-top with little knowledge of the valleys below.
Jesus is a secondary player in this poem. There is mention of a redeemer who has a cause that is worth speaking of but all that pales into comparison beside the mighty and powerful deeds that I will accomplish. For His sake I hasten to add. Not mine. No selfish ambition here, no sir, no desire to make a name for myself. At all.
And yet Jesus didn’t join the unashamed but quite the opposite. He sought out people deeply ashamed at their position in life, people whose devotion to the way of God was less than stellar. The lost and the sick he called them. Sheep without a shepherd.
When I became a Christian I didn’t stop being a sheep, I wasn’t converted into a lion. I was a sheep. I still am. The difference is now I have a shepherd.
I was prone to wandering off, doing my own thing, having less than pure motives and mixed up ambitions. I still am. Still do. The difference is now I have a shepherd. One who shows me the way, who speaks truth and leads me to life.
I am in fact all the things this piece I so passionately believed declared I would never be. And I am ashamed that this is too often the case. Yet there is one who covers my shame, forgives my sins and is strong when I am weak. Which is all the time in one way or another. Jesus stepped so deeply into my shame that he hung there with it on the cross. The inspiration is great but I needed the humbling more. The call to arms is important but not as important as the call to my knees. I wish now that more of my training and inspiration all those years ago was less focused on all that I would do and instead focused more on all that he did.
I understand that it’s this that inspired and motivated us to make bold declarations of our commitment to the cause of Christ. Well declare away, but I think our declarations should be slightly different. I am all the things I said I would never be but He is everything God declares Him to be and that is enough for me.