Christianity is a process, not a destination.
As an observer watching the development of other believers, I love to see how the Holy Spirit forges His brand of holiness in their lives. Soon, at the very onset of conversion it seems, they begin drawing others in. Anxious to hear an explanation for the changes family and friends see in their lives, seekers begin to ask questions: What have we done and what, if anything, has God to do with it?
Surprisingly, this phenomenon of salvation and attraction occurs even as the dissolution of relationships takes place. The reason for this, I suppose, is that while some people really do want to know God, others say they want to know God, but mean they want to know Him on their terms. When disingenuous people bump up against passages from the Bible that seem difficult to understand, however, their response is often to give up, fly away, or put to death any further curiosity they might have about the Living God. They back away, especially when what we’re doing and the things we’re talking about bring conviction. Regrettably, some of these disillusioned ones are people we would love to continue loving.
Jesus spoke boldly and with complete sincerity when He said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.”
How many times have you heard that in a sermon?
And then, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 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–a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” [Matt 10:34-38] emphasis mine.
This is a jagged little pill, indeed, and it shouldn’t surprise us if some are unwilling to swallow it. Jesus’ own disciples couldn’t handle some of his teachings and upon hearing what he shared, departed from his side. When the Savior asked Peter if he was leaving too, the Apostle’s reply was, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
So many times the church would prefer we not focus on the harder sayings and teachings of our Jesus. Especially when they are trying to get people saved, as if it were our right to drag people, kicking and screaming into the kingdom of heaven. That method never works and it is a primary reason for frustration in many Christian circles.
Those who have anything more than a cursory knowledge of the Bible understand that the message Jesus brought was divisive and polarizing. period (if I can borrow a term from Danielle). He knew that true faith would mean we’d have to choose up sides, and he put that dilemma in our path so that everyone would understand: those of you who choose to love “them” more than me, are simply not worthy of me. ouch! That hurts.
Listen, there’s something else Jesus knew and we need to hear it. He knew that some people, even when they heard the difficult words he spoke, would stay by his side. He knew what we hope for; that our efforts to educate people about spiritual matters will result in true conversions and changed lives. He knew it wouldn’t be easy. He knew there would be times when we would be confused, discouraged, hopeless, and without faith. He knew making a choice between Him and family would be hard. He knew.
He also knew that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.
We all have choices to make in this world, and some of them are just plain painful, but once having made that choice, we begin to find the courage to stand by our convictions, one day at a time, one challenge at a time, one choice at a time.
Christianity is a process, not a destination, which is why we will never be able to beat our chests and proclaim “we have arrived”. Instead, we’ll be asked to choose again and again. Take up our cross, again and again. Declare our allegiance, again and again and again. And one day, when our work here is done and the man we love most in the world steps out of the morning mist, draws close to us, leans down and whispers in our ear, he’ll be saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Well done!