“Professor Edition” will feature different professors on campus. Here is Dr. Michael Kugler’s story:God through Christ moves me in quiet but confusing, even upsetting ways. The most enduring example happened in two incidents. Over ten years ago my family and I followed some students to work a spring service project at Jesus People USA in Chicago, a Christian commune near Wrigley Field. We worked in the kitchen and cleaning apartments used for victims of domestic abuse. The community members were utterly unpretentious. They were counter-cultural, often arguing with each other about social and political issues, but united in their conviction about following the example of Jesus among Chicago’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. After we came home my wife Cheryl and I talked for months about the experience. We kept asking how a comfortable, calm life was a strange kind of resistance to obeying Jesus’ call to love the neediest among us.
In the spring of 2006 I joined some students in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I’ve never been so shocked by a catastrophe. The destruction often left me mute. Survivors described loss and despair beyond my imagination. The students spent hours clearing debris from homes, from streets, and tearing the insides of people’s homes down to the wooden studs. We drove to people’s homes, worked and then drove back, pretty quietly. This was partly from weariness and partly because the scale of destruction of the lives of regular people just . . . well, there was nothing to say.
Those two experiences gave a human face, I suppose, to what I had been reading in the Good News, about Jesus as God in the flesh. Those experiences gave me a way to understand a part of the Gospel of Mark that had haunted me for a long time: “And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” The community capable of following Jesus had to be as unconcerned about comfort and peer pressure as the JPUSA community. The way that kind of community would follow Jesus, following Him with a cross to the place of death, would follow Jesus to the catastrophes in other people’s lives and pick up their burdens.
I never wanted God in Christ to work His power in me in those ways. It’s too difficult. It’s too confusing and frightening. But I don’t think I have much authority in this. God in Christ moves in His people as He wishes, and we join Him, or we don’t. I still feel this kind of tug or presence. I live of course as some version of a hypocrite or eleventh-hour servant (Matthew 20:9). But it’s the only way that the Christian faith, and the presence in me of the living Christ, makes any sense.
Powerful stuff here, Michael. Thank you for sharing with such openness and humility. It’s truly convicting to ponder and question ourselves; how unconcerned am I about comfort and peer pressure? Praise be to God for his pursuing and invitational presence in the midst of our broken fragility.