It’s my turn to teach Sunday school — not in regular church, but rather in the COVID-19th Ward, which is just across the street in the home of Ben and Kelly Clegg. That’s where I go every other Sunday during the quarantine.
In addition to Ben, Kelly and me, the class will consist of their sons, Ryan, 16, and Ethan who is … well, I don’t know. Does Satan even have an age?
The subject of the lesson is “Come, Follow Me,” which anyone steeped in basic Christianity knows is the instruction Jesus gave to people who bothered to stop what they were doing long enough to listen more than 2,000 years ago.
Of all the people the Cleggs could have picked to teach this basic Christian principle, I am perhaps the least qualified. Ben and Kelly would have been better off booking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
I grew up being taught that “come, follow me” meant doing whatever I was told by people in some religious position of authority over me — bishops, Sunday school teachers, the Old Man, senior missionary companions, and anyone else who presumed to have a better idea about what this meant than I did.
As you might imagine, this caused any number of problems, including simple arguments, minor physical assaults, and, a few times, prolonged entertainment of actual bloodshed.
All of this because far too often what other people meant by “come, follow me” sounded exactly like something Jesus wouldn’t have said:
“Be a full tithe payer.”
“You’re supposed to wear a white shirt and tie.”
“Attend the temple regularly.”
“Get your home teaching done.”
“Hey! I’m the senior companion.”
I don’t think Jesus meant for the invitation to be that complicated. He was, after all, speaking to illiterate meatheads who believed in magic, didn’t know what germs were, and had no concept of the earth being round.
Not that I’m much smarter. Hell, none of us is. But after 65-plus years of trial and error, I have boiled down “come, follow me” to what I consider to be the true meaning — for me.
With respect, I believe what the Lord meant centuries ago when he said, “Come, follow me,” is the same thing Drill Sgt. Leon Valentine intended only 50 years ago when he yelled, “Get off your a--!” In other words, be productive.
“Come, follow me” requires real effort. For me, it means don’t hurt anyone who doesn’t have it coming, apologize if I do, honor my marriage, cherish my children, and actively seek out others who might be in need.
That might not sound like much, but it comes close to being a full-time job if you truly commit to it. And this is where it’s important to be paying attention, especially to that last part about those in need.
Otherwise, if someone in need asks for your help, and you automatically agree, the request might come out like “[Your name here], we need you to teach a lesson this Sunday.”
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.