Summary: The challenge of following Christ.
“Being a Christian is Hard”
Someone said to me this week, “Being a Christian is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” and I would have to agree with them.
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…
…turn the other cheek…
…do not judge…
…do not condemn…
…be merciful, just as [God] is merciful.”
Raise your hand if you live by these instructions all the time.
What’s gone wrong?
Was Jesus way off base?
Does He expect too much of us?
Theologian N.T. Wright says the following about these instructions from Jesus in Luke Chapter 6: “This list is all about which God you believe in—and about the way of life that follows as a result.”
And then he goes on, “We must admit with shame that large sections of Christianity down the years seem to have known little or nothing of the God Jesus was talking about.”
I don’t know about you, but that one steps on my toes.
But, as someone has said, “that why God gave us toes—to be stepped on!”
I don’t want to think I don’t know the God Jesus is talking about!
I mean, we are called to follow Him.
We are invited to be like Him.
But there is nothing easy about loving our enemies.
There is nothing easy about loving people who are hard on you or ministering to people who don’t like you.
There is nothing easy about the Cross!
Henri Nouwen wrote a meditation called “Our Greatest Gift.”
In it he imagines twins–a brother and a sister–talking to each other in their mother's womb:
The sister says to the brother, "I believe there is life after birth."
Her brother protests vehemently, "No, no, this is all there is.
This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling to the cord that feeds us."
But the little girl insists, "There must be something more than this dark place.
There must be something else, a place with light where there is freedom to move."
Still, she can’t convince her twin brother.
After some silence, the sister says hesitantly, "I have something else to say, and I'm afraid you won't believe this, either, but I think there is a mother."
Her brother becomes furious. "A mother!" he shouts.
"What are you talking about?
I have never seen a mother, and neither have you.
Who put that idea in your head?
As I told you, this place is all we have.
Why do you always want more?
This is not such a bad place, after all.
We have all we need, so let's be content."
The sister is quite overwhelmed by her brother's response and for a while she doesn’t dare say anything more.
But she can’t let go of her thoughts, and since she has only her twin brother to speak to, she finally says, "Don't you feel these squeezes every once in a while?
They're quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful."
"Yes," he answers. "I feel them, and they are unpleasant.
But the pain always goes away after a while.”
"Well," the sister says, "I think that these squeezes are there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face-to-face.
Don't you think that's exciting?"
If we follow Jesus there is going to be pain and suffering, but there is also going to be birthing and light.
Ask any mother and she will tell you that birthing is a painful ordeal.
It’s painful for the mother, and it’s also got to be painful for the baby.
And the baby, well, the baby cries when she or he is born.
And the baby has to learn how to eat.
And the baby has to eventually learn how to walk.
And the baby falls down a lot and gets hurt a lot.
But eventually, the baby learns to walk.
And when the baby learns to walk—watch out!!!
Cause there are all kinds of things the baby starts trying out and a lot of these things are dangerous.
And so, the mother and father, they must keep a close eye on the baby.
They must help the baby learn and grow.
They must keep the baby safe.
And they must be patient with the baby.
And then, eventually, the baby learns to run and to read and to write and to talk and all along the way there are new dangers, new things to find out about, more mistakes to be made.
My friends, Christianity is a journey.
It is not a destination.
And I think that part of the message in what Jesus is telling us this morning is that we need to be more patient with one another.