Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It's Too Hard

This was first posted on June 1, 2009.

This week is exam week. As teachers have reviewed and tried to make sure that the students are prepared, some of the students make it clear that they have no intention of studying for an exam that could mean passing or failing the subject. Many of these decide not to study for the same reason they don't do homework throughout the year - "It's too hard." They take the "easy" way out, even though that way leads to summer school or a repeat of the grade the following year. Some of this attitude can be attributed to the age and immaturity of the students.

I wonder if this same attitude is infecting many in the church in America. We find it easier to let preachers feed us, rather than searching the Scriptures for ourselves. We sit back and let the preacher entertain us, even if it may end up being harmful to our spiritual growth. There are many who find it easy to show up to a church gathering on Sunday morning, go through the customary shallow greetings, sing a few songs without bothering to consider what they are singing, listen to a lecture for a (hopefully short) while, then go home to their comfortable lives without having any more meaningful contact with others until the next Sunday. In some churches, this pattern is repeated once or twice more through the week. Anything else beyond that, except for maybe morning "quiet time," just becomes too much. After all, we live such busy lives.

The result of this continual routine is a church that has no power, a church that focuses on other things than the Gospel. We have seen this in recent years with the religious right's attempt to legislate moral behavior, and with the religious left's attempt to legislate compassion for others. It is easy, it seems to me, to rally behind a cause, to attend rallies and write letters. It is easy to boycott advertisers and companies, to vote for the "correct" candidate. At the end of a day of doing all of these, we can still go home and live life as we are used to living it. In fact, I believe that many of the causes are more about protecting our pursuit of the American Dream than they are about what God wants.

Jesus calls those who follow him to lose everything, even our own life for his sake. I think this goes beyond merely being willing to lose our lives for the Gospel. What I believe Jesus is saying is following him means giving it all up to him and allowing him to give us what he wants us to have as a trust for his Kingdom and glory. We are called to love God with every bit of us, and to love all others as ourselves. That is not an easy thing to do, and sometimes the immediate gratification is not there. Just like students who can't see past the moment, many Christians can't see past themselves. We have become comfortable in our Christianity that is simply an addition to the American Dream. Christians in other countries can't even imagine having what we have, individually or in our churches. Yet we worry more about the possibility of losing tax exemption than the poor or hurting in our own neighborhood.

Following the King of kings is not an easy path. There will be hills, and curves that we can't see around. There will be times when Jesus will ask us to do something that is hard, or maybe even impossible. We are called to love like Jesus loved, to serve the unlovable, to give ourselves to those who are broken and messed up. We will be rejected, both by those outside the church and by some inside. Read the Gospels. Look what happened to the disciples and many of the early Christians. Many times it was too hard...for them. Not for their Savior. And, they turned the world upside down.

God help us all to give ourselves up for the King and his Kingdom.

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