Luthuli wrote these words in the midst of apartheid, an inhumane system that ravaged the lives of millions of people in the country where I live. The “disembodied principles” to which Luthuli refers are an apt description of what my Christian life entailed under the apartheid system. It was a kind of Christianity wherein I believed in Jesus as “my Savior,” yet this belief didn’t engage me—or my friends—with “the conditions under which its people live.” Somehow, I could believe in Jesus without attempting to follow Him. I lived in a cocoon (of whiteness), disengaged from the world around me.
As a beneficiary of oppression I comfortably practiced my spirituality while the majority of South Africa’s people struggled for their lives. It was this disembodied version of Christianity that, among other things, led to the theological justification of apartheid. Believing in Jesus and following Jesus were severed from each other. I followed Jesus with my intellect but not with my body. Faith was in my head and not in my hands or my feet.
In the Gospel of Luke we read about a walking Jesus: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’” 
After reading this a decade ago, I wrote in my journal, “What does it mean to deny myself and take up my cross daily?” I had no idea! My Christianity was not made flesh. I believed in Jesus, that He died for my sins so I could go to heaven. My version of Jesus was highly individualistic and very personal. This was true, but not true enough. Since writing those words in my journal, I’ve been on a quest to put flesh to my beliefs, to discover the way of Jesus.
By: Tom Smith
This article first appeared in Issue 8.2: Contemplation & Action of Conversations Journal, titled, Getting Naked with the Friends of Jesus: Living the Reality of Community,