If you know anything about this Chapter, Jesus gets real. It begins by Jesus telling His disciples to go out and love His people. He tells them to take nothing with them. They are to go and tell about the Kingdom and to heal the sick. This Chapter is such a real picture of Jesus’ relationship with His Disciples. The Disciples wrestle with their identity, with His identity. They wrestle with their calling. In the middle of the chapter, Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed”?
Then the Chapter ends with two men telling Jesus that they want to follow Him and He requires that they drop what they are doing immediately to do so. One had to bury his father, the other wanted to say goodbye to his family. It is Jesus who tells them that when they commit to Him, there is no turning back, not even to bury or say goodbye to their relatives. This all sounds pretty radical, doesn’t it? The things Jesus was saying went against cultural norms and personal preferences ALL THE TIME.
I wonder what most of the American church is taking away from this Chapter when we read it? What do we think, as disciples now, Jesus is requiring of us? What radical, uncomfortable, counter-cultural decision(s) is He stirring up in our hearts and in our lives?
I have long been confused as to whether or not I had been given a different Bible and account of Jesus’ life than most of the Christians I’ve encountered in my lifetime. But you see, I have a new joy in reading Scripture. A freedom I did not have before. The Bible for me, up until this year, was a Book used to bind and condemn. A Book that I have watched Christians use to morally elevate themselves above those that I see Jesus more clearly in than most who claim His name.
Jesus is with the weak. He is with the poor. He is with the oppressed.
And yes, Jesus is also with you, middle and upper class America, but it is so much harder for me to see Him in your luncheons and fancy skits on Sunday mornings when I know that there are people waiting 4 months to get into homeless shelters in Pottstown, Pa. When there are countless broken homes and neighborhoods you are “scared” to step foot in. When you have “too much” going on already and making time to live intentionally with people who are suffering in your community is not really going to fit into your schedule. When your missions budget and benevolence fund fail in comparison to your budgets for church functions and entertainment.
If the church is not at the center of movements toward justice, then who is? If Pastors will not get up in front of their congregations on Sunday morning and preach with conviction about things that matter, who will?
Is it easier to pretend that it just boils down to a difference in political opinion or career path?
Folks have always praised me for my work in Uganda and now, most recently, my work in Pottstown. I get a range of comments, “You are such a good person”, “I could never do what you do”, “being a missionary is SUCH a calling”… When starting to share in group settings, folks will admit to feeling intimidated by “all I’ve done”.
This has made less and less sense to me the more I hear it. The more I read Scripture and dig in to understand the accounts of Jesus and the Gospel message, the more I am genuinely confused by most Christians I know.
And it boils down to this simple fact: AS A CHRISTIAN, MY LIFE SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED RADICAL.
When we read Scripture and when we REALLY understand who Jesus was, what He did for us and what that means we are called to do for his people. When that happens, our lives must look drastically different. That’s not a difference in theology, political party or career path. It’s the Gospel message. It’s what it means when we call ourselves followers of Christ.
It’s not adopting a child once. It’s not serving at a soup kitchen once a month and it’s not going on a 1 week missions trip to another country or inner city to “experience” how other folks live.
When we are truly responding the the call of the Gospel. When we are allowing God’s redemptive power to transform our lives. When that happens, it’s not going to be one specific act or trip or cause you involve yourself in. Instead, it will be your life that reflects Him and how He has sacrificed and loved you well.
If there is one thing I know that God has not called us to, it’s comfortability. He has not asked us to remain in our racial, socioeconomic, theological, cultural, religious, sexual or political categories because it’s safe and familiar. He hasn’t asked us to serve those who look like us and think like us 99% of the year while we reserve the other 1% for the “less fortunate”.
Jesus breaks down barriers and He flips over shit when His Temples aren’t being used for what He intended. Jesus had a righteous anger when religious folks cared more about the legalism than the love of people. Sound familiar?
So, I really don’t think Jesus would take kindly to our excuses that we are “uncomfortable”, that our “schedules are full” or that we do “enough” for justice. His life was justice, His life was reconciling a broken world.
Jesus wouldn’t see my life as radical, He’d see me as a messy, broken, sinner who sometimes gets it right when she loves people well and fights for them the way He constantly fights for us.