I could not sleep over this thought that came to mind the other night. I have so many people I know who say they want to follow Jesus, but…
The list of reasons not to is exhaustive. I thought about some of the reasons I heard and what they were really saying about how they actually feel. If these reasons were written to Jesus in a letter, this is how I picture it going:
Listen, you’re great. It’s really not you…well, maybe it is. You kind of ask a lot of me. I remember when I heard about you and lifted my hands at youth group/summer camp/Sunday morning service to sing to you. That felt awesome for me. I felt like I really wanted to “get serious” about having a relationship with you. I mean, I cried with all my friends in our matching shirts so it must have been real right?
Well, life just makes that hard. I still want to party with my friends, have sex with my boyfriend/girlfriend, I do not have time to read or pray, and following you is just too hard. I do not want to give up everything important to me, and to be honest, I do not think I should have to.
I know the story about the cross and that it changes other people’s lives. Maybe it’s just easier for these “super Christians” to do what you ask. Maybe I am not made that way. I tried to do better and I could not do it so I think I should still get some credit. I mean I do not do everything I used to do. I think you should accept what I gave up for you already and give me some credit.
So again, you are great and all, but why not keep things between us casual? Maybe I will end up following you someday. Maybe I can change my boyfriend/girlfriend once we get married and then we can maybe follow you together. I know they do not believe in you, but is that REALLY such a bad thing? Maybe, if we have kids, we will send them to camp and stuff. Those experiences were so fun. They did not really make me want to follow you more, but youth group at my church always took great trips so I do not want my kids to miss out.
I mean it would be cool if you could help me get a great job so we can live in a nice house and so my kids can go to a great school. I really want to have those kind of nice things, but please do not ask me to go somewhere like Africa or India. I would hate to say no to you, but that’s not going to happen.
Jesus, let’s just keep this casual. I’ll pray and stuff when I “really need to,” but I really do think I am not ready to get serious with you. Maybe someday because you are pretty cool, but just not yet.
Thanks for understanding!
Do you hear even a little bit of yourself in there from your past or present? I know I do. I think if we are all honest, we would see that we have been casual in our pursuit of Christ at some point.
Then there’s Jesus:
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many,and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, ‘This man is calling Elijah.’ And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.’ And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” Matthew 27:46-50
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39
Nothing about the way God has ever loved us has been casual. The fierceness which Christ loved us with sent Him through a crucifixion, absolute separation from God, and a depth of pain we will never know because of the grace that abounds from the sacrifice God gave through the crushing of His beloved Son on our behalf. Intense right?
That is how deeply you are loved. What are you really giving up in comparison to the love you are being covered by? What are you losing besides a life that has the possibility of hope and joy yet unseen?
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.'” Matthew 16:24-25
May we always remember how fiercely and deeply God loves us and sacrificed His own Son as a ransom for us. I am so undeserving of anything but death, but I so causally pursue Christ in a “I will get you scheduled in soon” kind of way. May I be more mindful of my loss when I am not at His feet. When I am not being girded up for each day and wrapped up in the arms of my Savior I am saying better is everything and everyone else above you. I don’t want to be casual, but it’s not so that I cal feel good about that. I want to be all in because He alone is worthy. I do not want to be comfortable. Whatever the cost. It is so little compared to the price that ransomed me.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-” Philippians 3:7-9
May I give Jesus my whole heart and may my pursuit cost me and spend me to the end of myself and anything that I put above my relationship with my Father. With every breath, with all I am everyday until He calls me home.