Here’s something I know I can easily forget: Jesus never promised us an easy life.
In Matthew 10:34-39 He says this:
‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the Earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword […..]
…and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’
This is not the Jesus we sing about in Christmas carols, or see depicted on stained glass windows. The Church are more than willing to share Jesus’ compassion, humility and grace, but this radical side of Jesus? We’re not so keen to talk about that. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable. It demands a level of commitment and response that maybe we’re not ready to accept. But somehow, it’s commonplace for believers across this nation- and much of the Western world as a whole, probably- to agree with the lie that part-time Christianity is all that’s required of us.
I think if we truly grasped what Jesus was saying here in Matthew, we’d be walking out a different lifestyle altogether. Instead, we get stuck between wanting to surrender completely to God and His purposes, and holding back because it’s so very inconvenient. Our human desire for comfort and security often wins out, and then we get even more stuck, becoming apathetic and even bored.
The Christian life is supposed to be a lot of things, but boring is absolutely not one of them! I don’t know about you, but on several occasions I’ve had to pull my head out of my belly button and remind myself of who my God actually is. A few weeks ago I watched a talk by Louie Giglio on our great big Universe. I’ve always been fascinated by our solar system, our galaxy and beyond, so Giglio’s insight into the subject really hit home to me. Aside from all the stunning photography of galaxies millions of light-years away, and the diagrams of our Sun looking rather miniscule next to some of the other stars, one phrase in particular helped me put things into perspective:
‘Our solar system in relation to the Milky Way is the size of a quarter on the North American continent.’
Even disregarding that scientists believe there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe, this was enough to make my head reel. We are infinitesimally small, yet infinitely significant to an even more infinite God. The more I think about it, the more incredible it becomes. I think of David’s words: ‘What is man, that you are mindful of him?’ What did God see in us, that He would send Jesus, ‘through whom and for whom all things were created’ (Colossians 1), to this tiny, tiny planet? That He would take upon Himself the disgrace and the suffering of man? There is no answer I can give except that we are His most valued creation, made in His likeness.
With this in mind, why wouldn’t I want to take up my cross and follow Him, regardless of the cost?
I don’t want to settle for just being a ‘nice person’. I don’t want part time Christianity.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’. This verse has stood out to me several times over the past month or so, and has challenged me more than I expected. I want to represent Jesus wherever I go, every day- but how do you put that into practice?
Including God in the small details of my day wasn’t all that easy at first. In the workplace, for example. Where’s God when I’m on my knees or tip toes in the filing cabinets? Where is He when I’m on my lunch break walking past the Big Issue sellers and the homeless? When I’m paying for my coffee?
I began to understand how much I can limit God simply by not allowing Him in every situation. But as I fought to keep Him as my focus, I started to see the people around me during the busy-ness of my day. The ones who needed encouragement, a chat or even a smile. Food, drink or spare change. Representing Jesus means to be humble, to serve without expecting anything back- to go the extra mile and not feel entitled to a thank you.
I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back. Those small victories were not done in my own strength, but through grace. Through God opening my eyes to how much He loves the people I come into contact with. And despite this I still had many moments of feeling grumpy, tired, and generally human.
My temp job is finished now so I’m writing this with hindsight, but the principle remains the same. I think life has the potential to be far more exciting than it is for many Christians, simply because we don’t take hold of what’s already been made available to us.
Exciting doesn’t equate with easy, but I’m willing to chase after this lifestyle. Are you?