I notice precious few go against the grain. At least not in a significant way. And this would include me.
But aren’t we Christians above all people called to go against the grain? For example, Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) This advice is counter cultural. Who wants to lose their life? We want safety. The world and our flesh say, “Find yourself – Be your own person – Look out for number one – You only get to go around once so go for the gusto – If it feels good, do it – Promote yourself – At all costs, save your own skin!”
Jesus didn’t save his life, he gave it up. He accomplished more in 33 years than Methuselah did in 969 years. I wonder, what about me? What will I accomplish? If I choose to try maximizing a lifetime of comfortable suburbanite lifestyle – living the American Dream – what will be left to show at the end?
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me…” (John 12:24-26)
The propensity for desiring comfort and safety is blatant in American Christian culture, but the fact they are present in my own life – even prevalent – is what I find especially sickening. It’s so easy for me to conform to the world, even when I feel I’m taking a stand for Christ.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” -Jiddu Krishnamurti
I may think I’m being radical, following Jesus with my entire life, surrendering my will and desires to his leadership – when I’m actually more like a little kid at a swimming pool who’s climbed the ladder of the high dive, standing up there thinking he’s really done something big. Yet he hasn’t jumped off yet, hasn’t taken the plunge. Just standing at the top, looking down on everyone else, feeling smug.
Am I ready to follow Christ where it hurts? True abandon, complete surrender, reckless faith…?
The god of America is comfort. It is my god as well. Regardless of what I say, my actions tell another story:
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.’” (Luke 16:25)
I say I’m a pilgrim, that this world is not my home, and that I’m a stranger. Then what do I do? Accumulate stuff. Craft the perfect apartment, furnishing it with every luxury. Buy toys. Work on my public image. Value temporary materialism over eternal relationships. Attempt to stockpile cash reserves like I’ll live forever. Like I have no heavenly Father who has promised to provide for my every need.
I say I’m a stranger, yet I call this my home.
Food is another example. Every possible option is at my fingertips – and so every day I eat well. When I want something, I buy it; sparing no expense.
“Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)
While living in luxury and plenty my mind frequently dwells here below on earthly things, not above on Christ. I become numb to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Like one wearing headphones, I’m tuned out from the leading of God’s still, small voice.
My actions also say:
Jesus lived with his disciples. He didn’t just teach them at a weekly Sunday school or spend the occasional evening together over dessert or even lecture them from a classroom setting. No, he spent large quantities of time with them – one on one, living together. He shared his life, not just partially but fully: 24/7.
Jesus headed up the first Fishers of Men apprenticeship program and it took time, personal attention, patience, and discomfort. I voluntarily live in isolation.
The more I think of Christ, the more I’m humbled with the fact he loved me enough to undergo pain. For my ransom He paid a price that hurt Him, that wasn’t comfortable, that wasn’t convenient.
- “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Am I prepared to do the same for others? Will I be Christ to the hurting? What about becoming poor, so that others might be rich?
Jesus says the road to the Kingdom is narrow, the gate is small, and there be few that find it.
Sola Fide, through faith alone, is the cry of easy-believism. Say a prayer and claim your fire insurance. Yes, I too am convinced – through my understanding of Scripture – that we are saved solely by God’s grace, mercy, and power alone; not through works so we could boast. The Bible is clear on this point: we can’t save ourselves.
Yet there are always two sides of a coin. Jesus is our perfect example, yet his perfect faith didn’t preclude him from doing something. On the contraire, His act on the cross was a result of his faith.
James conceded, “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24)
A holy life leads to a holy mission.
Being is more important than doing.
Yet doing is a natural progression from being. Not out of guilt, obligation, or mere excitement for Christ’s cause; but springing from a love for Jesus himself.
There’s a fork in the road. One is broad and easy, one is narrow and difficult. Which one will I take? Which one will you take?
How about taking the plunge?