The Jesus Manifestor - Final Installment
1. "Guess what your son did today?"
2. "We need to talk."
3. "We have to do the bills."
4. "I have a headache."
5. "I'm pregnant."
There are lots of things that we don't want to hear. We don't want to hear bad news. We don't want to hear that we've made a mistake. We don't want to hear that we've been wrong. We don't want to hear that plans have changed, that we are ill or that the person we love is saying goodbye... for good.
When someone says to us, "Do you want the good news or the bad news?" most of us would rather just hear the good news.
Jesus said some hard things. When you read them in the Bible it's tempting to want to ignore them, and move on to a section where he says something like, "I love you, you love me, we're a..." Oh, yeah. That's not Jesus. That's Barney the Dinosaur.
The way that we usually gloss over and change Jesus' words, I could have probably passed Barney's signature song as a Jesus quote.
So what do we do when we read some of the difficult things that Jesus said? Ignore them? Rationalize them away? Assume it's meant for someone else?
Check out this passage, which contains SEVERAL of the hard sayings of Jesus:
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.[Pause]
Let's reset some of those for a moment:
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword...
Anyone who loves their father or mother...son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me...
Take up their cross...
Okay, you can begin your questions:Whoever finds their life will lose it...
What is Jesus trying to say here? I thought he was the Prince of Peace? Is Jesus THAT selfish? How can I choose between my family and Jesus?
Most of us Christians engage in what I like to call "Adventures in Missing the Point." This is one of those moments. The bottom line to what Jesus is trying to say here in this important passage is simply this:
Real Peace is Costly.
In the mainline Protestant tradition within which I currently abide, we often do something in our more formal worship services that we call "Passing the Peace." We will say to one another during the one minute of greeting and handshaking that we carve out in our worship services, "The Peace of Christ be with you." And if we're REALLY Presbyterian, we'll respond, "And also with you."
The interesting thing is, we don't even know what we're saying. Maybe if we did, we wouldn't wish the "Peace of Christ" on our pew mates.
Jesus said, "I did not come to bring peace but a sword..." Jesus was tapping into a belief that the Jews held about the Day of the Lord. They believed that it would result in the division of families because when something great emerges it is bound to divide people--even people in the same family. The inevitable result of Christ's coming--Jesus asserts--is conflict because a choice is required. You'll either believe him or you don't.
How does this affect us practically? It's hard to tell your children "no" isn't it? It's hard to make them do what is right, and to live right in front of them so they don't get mixed signals. It's hard to live differently with your money and your stuff. It's hard to speak the truth in love to your spouse when they've wronged you or violated your principles. It's hard to shift your priorities to what really matters. It's hard to move from safety to uncertainty.
But if Jesus is at the center of your life, these are things that you are called to do---even if it risks division in your family.
Jesus said, "Anyone who loves their father or mother... son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." The Greek word axios had to do with tipping or balancing scales. What Jesus was doing here was declaring his deity, his centrality and the position that he should take in the lives of his followers.
For us this is challenging because we love our life. We love the things of this world and not all of the things of this world are "bad." In fact some of them are very good. In fact we read in the Bible how some of these things---our spouse, our family---are to be near the top of our list of things we are called to hold dear and to cherish, and to sacrifice ourselves in service of... But in the end, Jesus demands that his disciples make him the center of their lives. When we do, we find that our relationships with those we love are deepened beyond measure.
Jesus told his disciples to "take up" their cross. Galileans knew far too well what taking up your cross meant. The Roman General Varus crucified 2,000 Galileans after an uprising, lining the roadways in the area with crosses. The condemned had to carry the cross piece of their cross to their death while everyone watched. This was a hard saying.
For us this means that we need to be ready to sacrifice our selves. Our careers, our comfort, our will need to be laid down. It is only when we die to ourselves that we will learn what it means to be raised to a new kind of life where careers, comfort and our will are no longer an issue.
Jesus said, "Whoever finds their life will lose it... and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." He was trying to tell his followers that you can hold on to your life, you can hoard it and end up losing all that makes life valuable to others.
For us this means that we can spend our entire lives trying to "find" ourselves and our "purpose" and then discover in the end that all we have is regret over lost time, lost moments, lost opportunities and wasted days. When Jesus is the center of your life, you find your purpose in Him. Jesus acts as your "Daytimer," and you cherish every day that you've been given. You aren't afraid to take risks to do what is right, and you don't lose sleep over opportunities that have passed you by, because the only ones that matter are the ones that you know were guided by Jesus.
The bottom line is this: We want peace, but we want it cheaply. We want Jesus, but only if it doesn't cost us. We desire the pay-off of Jesus promises, but we aren't willing to sacrifice. This is why it's a revolutionary act to wish someone the "Peace of Christ." Aren't you ready to live your life with real meaning and real peace?
Real Peace is Costly.
Join the revolution. May the Peace of Christ be with you.