Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mr. Rogers in the Electric Chair?

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Luke 14:25-34

What do you think Jesus was like? If you had to describe Jesus to a friend, what would you tell them about Him?

Most likely one of the first things you would say is that Jesus loved people. He loved people that even the other religious people wouldn’t. And you might say that He was compassionate or kind. You may even say that He was a charismatic leader. But I’m guessing that you wouldn’t say He was dangerous.

The truth is that we have taken the edge off of Jesus. We have diluted Him down to the warm cuddlies and made Him safe so that He comes off as a 1st century version of a children’s TV show host. But as J.R. Briggs says “What government would execute Mister Rodgers?” (When God Says Jump, p.20) Jesus wasn’t crucified for telling people to love their neighbor. He was crucified because He was dangerous! And He was dangerous because “[He] didn’t fit into anybody’s categories. Nobody could slap a label on Him, and that’s because He didn’t care if people didn’t like Him or if His life were on the line. He challenged the religious and the irreligious. He comforted the disturbed and disturbed the comfortable. He spoke truth that ticked people off. Jesus ripped people’s security blankets in two- not to be a jerk but to expose people to the idea of life, real life, which was His purpose for coming.” (When God Says Jump, p.20)    

Jesus was a one man countercultural movement. Yes, He was loving and compassionate far beyond all others, but He was also courageous and willing to risk it all for God beyond all others. Jesus was a radical man, zealous for the things of God. I am becoming more and more convinced that everywhere Jesus went He lovingly and compassionately made people feel uncomfortable. He did this because He was challenging their paradigm (the way they viewed the world), and He was calling them to live a new life, a different life, a radically changed life. The question is, "Are you ready to live that life?"

We have watered Jesus down so much that many of us can't imagine what that life would look like. We think that all God requires of us as Christians is to “believe” certain things that the Bible says and maybe refrain from doing some other things that the Bible tells us not to do. But that’s not right, Jesus is still calling out to those who have “ears to hear” and who are willing to follow Him, and He is calling them to live a radically changed life.

If we were really like Christ, if we were dangerous and radical and willing to “take up our cross and follow” the Lord wherever He leads us, then and only then would we see people start to want what we have. I like the way the Mike Yaconelli put it. He says, “Faith has been reduced to a comfortable set of beliefs about God instead of an uncomfortable encounter with God.”

This is my desire for you: that you would encounter God and that you would be changed! You cannot enter into the presence of God and leave unchanged, so if your life hasn’t changed at all then you haven’t encountered God. I know that none of us like to be uncomfortable, but we are so attached to this world and to trying to blend in that our Father has to make us uncomfortable. He has to slowly and tenderly unclench our grasp on the things of this world so that we can grab on to the infinitely better things that He has to offer us.

Over the coming weeks and months we are going to be looking at what it means to live our lives fully surrendered to God. We are going to ask ourselves the question, “Am I willing to do whatever God tells me to do?” And we are going to earnestly seek after something extraordinary. We hope to leave bored, tired religion behind and grab hold of a vibrant, challenging relationship with the Lord. We are going to attempt to make a difference in the lives of those around us. We are going to try to leave our mark on history. So I want you to begin to ask yourself now, “How far am I willing to go with this? How far am I willing to follow the Lord?” Jesus followed Him all the way to the cross. Will you stop at comfortable?

For further reading this week…

No comments: