A few weeks ago, I was talking with a colleague about our different ministries in the churches we serve. At some point, the conversation turned to a recent sermon he had preached on a particular passage of scripture quoting Jesus. It doesn’t really matter what it was for this purpose. What does matter is a question I asked. I wondered how he handled a similar but different passage – one that sort of contradicted his who take in the sermon. I said something along the lines of, “I see where you are coming from, but what about this thing Jesus said? How do you make sense of it all together?” After a long silence, his response was, “I didn’t even try.”
Some things are easy – Some are hard
Some of the things Jesus said and taught are easy for us to understand. “Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am going to prepare a place for you.” Things like that. Things that, even if we don’t completely get the point or succeed in carrying out the lesson, are easy enough to try to follow.
Other things Jesus did and said present a challenge to us and our ways of living. “Turn the other cheek. Take up your cross. The last will be first and the first will be last.” Sometimes things like this make sense but are hard to follow, and other times they don’t make sense, or we just don’t want to follow them.
Kingdom Work is Hard
All of the lessons that Jesus taught to his disciples were intended to focus their minds on the “Kingdom work” they were called to do – preaching, teaching, spreading the Gospel of God’s love – even if those teachings and methods make us a bit uncomfortable. But Jesus never said that discipleship is easy. In fact, Jesus told us that following him is something that demands our whole being and all the effort we can offer.
In fact, the Bible is full of this theme. People encounter God and are changed in amazing ways. Sometimes they were pretty good before the transformation, other times they weren’t so good (I’m looking at you Saul/Paul). But, through God’s grace, even the worst of us has a chance at new life. The Bible shows that transformation doesn’t come cheap. God’s grace might be free – available to us with no preconditions or prerequisites – but after we encounter it, the way forward as a follower of Jesus is difficult. Changing our lives to reflect the will of God, the desires of God, the holiness of God is not easy. Which is why we ignore it.
By God’s Grace…
The outgrowth of grace, however, is a new life. It is a life lived in right relationship with God. And with others. Before we close ourselves off from what is available through Jesus, and before we decide to ignore his words because they are difficult or inconvenient, we should really study what they mean for us.
So, I invite you to come check out this new sermon series for the next few week. During this time we will take a look at some of the difficult things Jesus taught. Even if it means that there is still work to be done…
Grace and peace,