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Someone recently asked me why people leave the Jesus Christians, about the same time that an ex-member was accusing me of forcing people to obey something (me, the Bible, or what, I'm not sure), and, in relation to donating a kidney in particular, he said that this (obedience) was the wrong reason to be doing such a thing.

My first answer to why people leave the community is that they can't hack the discipline. But the person asking that question wanted something more specific. "What sort of discipline," she asked. I jumped around between things like going for runs, having to be accountable for how we use our time, not having much privacy, etc. But it didn't seem to really answer the question. After all, these same people still have disciplines in their lives after they leave us, and sometimes the disciplines are even harder.

With regard to the second issue (that of why a member of our community decides to donate a kidney), I could see that there was something related to obedience that enters into the decision-making process, but I also knew that it had nothing to do with obedience to me, and I wasn't so sure that it had anything to do with any Bible verse that says, "Donate your kidney," either.

And then I thought about something that has been my signature on the Quaker forum since I first joined that forum. It says, "When you are prepared to hear what you don't want to hear, you are pretty close to finding the truth." And it hit me: This is the discipline that people most commonly react against when they leave the Jesus Christians. And it is the discipline that leads so many of our members to donate a kidney.

We teach that God wants us to be willing to hear (and do) things that might not come naturally to us. Being willing doesn't mean actually doing any of these things; but it does mean being open to doing them. For unless we are open to all options, we risk the chance of missing some vital part of the truth... about ourselves, about life, about everything.

I'll give a little example. You do something that hurts someone else's feelings. You didn't intend to do it, and they seem to be over-reacting. You're not sure whether you should apologise or not. If you're not WILLING to apologise, you'll never be able to know if NOT apologising is the right thing. And if you're not willing to NOT apologise, you could mess things up too.

Apologising may solve everything. On the other hand, it could be done for the wrong reason (i.e. just to appease another person, when you didn't really feel you did anything wrong). So which way do you go? We teach that you just make sure that you are willing to do either, and then you ask God. Whatever he tells you to do, you do. Obey the voice of the Spirit in your conscience.

Now, let's apply this to the question of someone donating a kidney. The problem with so many people is that they are not willing to even consider it. So even though we don't have some article which confronts members with the issue of donating a kidney in particular, we do have this general teaching that people need to be willing to do anything that God wants them to do, and that they need to be constantly examining themselves to see if there are areas where they are NOT willing, and to work on overcoming those barriers, because they are barriers to finding the truth.

This business of constantly examining ourselves is also the discipline that ex-members do NOT seem to take with them when they leave the community. They may continue to run, to study, to get up early, to live a life of poverty, to help the poor, etc. etc. But what they cannot do is examine themselves and ask if they are willing to do the opposite of what they end up choosing to do. Decisions are made because "I want to do it," and not with the attitude of being willing to change my natural inclinations to do something quite opposite if God should so direct.

Now remember that being willing doesn't necessarily mean that a person will turn around and do the oppsoite of what they are doing now. It's just a matter of opening ourselves up to other possibilities, so that we can kind of get the kinks out of the hook- up that we have between God and ourselves. Wherever we have an area that is not open to negotiation between us and God, it is going to be a barrier to spiritual growth.

For someone donating a kidney, there comes a point where they have pretty seriously committed themselves, done all the tests, travelled to the place where they are going to donate, met the recipient, and then they are about to donate. Now at THAT point, it's easy to develop a closed mind to the possibility that God might say "No". What would people think of us? How would we break the news to the recipient? But, you know, if it's really God's will that we want, then we have to be willing to NOT donate as well. Unless you know that you are just as free to not donate as to donate, you are always going to wonder if you did the right thing.

This willingness to go either way is really quite liberating. Most people never get to experience it. And so their understanding of God and their relationship with God is stunted at best. And very often their idea of God is little more than their own opinions.

Yeah, sure, it's a discipline that one can easily tire of subjecting ourselves to. Wouldn't it be fun to just indulge ourselves, do whatever we want, without ever having to question whether it is the right thing, or if we are willing to do something else instead? But I think most of us have had some experience with doing that already, and where has it led us? The world (and that includes a lot of ex- members) is constantly telling us that this "broad way" is the way to happiness; but I haven't found it to be that way. I find that the narrow way of asking God what to do is the most fulfilling and joyful way to go.

Remember that it isn't a case of having a list of rules that we need to obey; it's just an openness to whatever God may be saying to us through our conscience each day. But that conscience can only function as it was meant to function when we are willing to let it say things that we don't naturally want to hear. Are you willing to do that?

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