Hardwired for Joy

A Review of Following the Call: Living the Sermon on the Mount Together

September 27, 2021 by

Are you looking for fulfillment? For peace? For purpose? Or love?

Come on – who isn’t looking for these things?

We’re hardwired for life’s search by a Creator who “set eternity” in our hearts. Problem is, we seem disastrously prone to detours and dead-ends masquerading as destinations and goals. There are also myriad sufferings and fears to navigate. Most of us will admit that we need some sort of guidance. Self-help gurus and lifestyle icons abound. But it can be hard to find a voice we trust.

Gathering around a campfire

Why not turn to the ultimate role model: the Creator himself? It’s a choice puzzlingly few make, although he actually took on human form to be the example of the way to lasting joy.

Apart from the fact that following Christ is undeniably hard, many are tempted to dismiss his example because of the way it has been flattened, obscured, and skewed. For many, his witness is nothing more than dead letters on a page.

Following the Call, a new guide compiled by Charles E. Moore, seeks to un-skew that witness by focusing on the core of Jesus’ teaching, the Sermon on the Mount. Rather than set himself up as yet another expert, Moore has selected prophetic readings from wise men and women throughout the ages that he hopes will propel readers toward a true encounter with the three-dimensional human being and son of God, Jesus Christ.

That’s readers, plural – because the book is meant to be read and discussed with others. Christ’s example invites it: His life finds its fullest meaning in relationship, interaction, and fellowship.

The book is not a devotional or commentary; it will not leave us nodding contentedly. Jesus wants to grip and jolt us. In fact, readers will likely be deeply dismayed and perhaps even heartbroken over at least one of the readings. They may wish it had not been selected – or that a justification might be found for not applying it to their own lives.

When (not if!) this happens, take heart: you are drawing closer to the Master. Moore writes, “In reading the . . . selections we must remember that Jesus did not come to impose anything on us; he came to redeem, not condemn! . . . [He] gives witness to the fact that God is able to meet our deepest longings for righteousness, mercy, peace, and love.”

“Jesus . . . launches a new movement that both threatens and promises to change everything. His message is one of liberation, not so much from an empire or a religious system as from the bonds of sin, power, injustice, and death that give rise to exploitation and dehumanization.”

If this is so, why are daily headlines still saturated with exploitation and dehumanization? Could it be because so few of us Christians are truly ready to practice the radical self-abandonment demanded by a life of discipleship?

These readings, when contemplated together, aim to push us closer to living in a way that will actually change things around us and send the ripples out.

Because when we meet the Christ of the Beatitudes, everything turns upside down, and what may seem to be the end is really the beginning – of fulfillment, of peace, of purpose, of love. . . and most of all, of joy!

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