Something Hazardous

"My desire and prayer to God is that your life and your ministry would have a radical flavor. A risk taking flavor, a gutsy, counter cultural, war time  flavor that makes average American people in your church uncomfortable.  A strange mixture of tenderness and toughness that keeps people a little bit off balance.  A pervasive summons to something more, something hazardous, something wonderful.  A saltiness and a brightness about your life...something like Jesus. "

"Jesus said do this.  Be light. Be salt.   Reviling comes. Persecution comes....and you rejoice.
....Crazy people who meet cancer, and meet death, and meet suffering with unflinching confidence in Christ and joy in being known by him and loved by him." John Piper

So much easier said than done.

Are we willing to embrace suffering...especially the kind that we choose by following Jesus into a world that hates him?    Are we willing to set our face unflinchingly toward heart break, pain, sacrifice, sickness, and loss as Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem?

Our natural inclination is to run from it.   Run far far away.   We would rather live in pleasant denial, blindness, self righteous arrogance, or apathetic compromise. I know when I  face unjust criticism, slander, or malicious treatment I feel the need to justify, defend and vindicate myself, anything but carry it to Jesus.

The honest truth of it is, we love our own lives, our reputations, our comfort, our money and our success more than we love the people of this world...or the One who died to redeem it.   We  love people for what they can do for us (or our kids)...not out of genuine grace and sacrifice.  If someone had nothing to offer us in return, no relationship, no obligation, no status, no reward...would we still love them?  At the same time, sometimes genuine love involves holding someone accountable, and leading them toward God's best for them...even when we have to risk our own desire for relationship, reputation, and convenience to do so.

"When Christ calls a man , he bids him to come and die"  Bonhoeffer.

Most Christians hide from persecution.  We crave the affections and approval of people more than intimacy with and obedience to Jesus.  We bow to the idol of people pleasing, and self preservation.  We avoid discomfort at all costs.

Do we truly reflect the one we call our Lord?  Or do we just use him as our self help cousellor, ticket to heaven, moral example, or good advice giver?
Are we willing to actually get our hands dirty?  Are we able  to be slandered, rejected, despised, and hated  and to glorify God in the midst of it all?   Are we willing to be unpopular for speaking truth?  Not likely. Not without the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It's easier to numb ourselves with easy lies.

"The truth will set you free"....but  in this life, for many believers, that freedom  looks like imprisonment, death, and persecution.

I think most average North American Christians know very little about suffering for doing good.  I know nothing of the persecution that many believers in the world and throughout history face.  The concept is completely foreign to most of us.   It seems we believe more in a Christian version of karma than we do the actual bloody, sacrificial, radical love displaying gospel of Jesus.   We tell our kids...."be nice, and people will be nice to you"...and even worse we believe it.   

I hear sentiments from Christians like "God just wants us to live our best life" in the context of make a lot of money, pursue a lot of wonderful experiences, and buy a lot of stuff to make us as happy as possible.  "If I'm a good person and try to live a life of integrity God will bless me with success, money, comfort etc" , as if God owes us something for our efforts.  {As if our moral efforts are anything but a steaming manure pile compared to the holiness of God.}  The problem of that line of thought is, at some point every body will come face to face with pain and loss regardless of how good you think you are.   How will your shallow sentiments and Christian karma feel then?  Probably like cold comfort...or an uncomfortable itchy sweater that you can't wait to tear off. What if God's blessing comes to you in the form of suffering...a "thorn in the flesh"?  Can we thank him for loving us enough to train and test us?
I think too many Christian believe the myth that "Jesus will make all your problems go away"...eventually He will...yes...but that comes after you die.  Until then, you follow in the steps of a homeless guy who was crucified, chances are that path isn't all gum drops and roses.  Pain brings us face to face with our idols and in crushing them...teaches us the essence of worship.

At some point everyone  feels the weight of grief, loss, disappointment, and the sting of betrayal.   If you are a follower of Christ you will, by default, choose it...and you will only thrive in it by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus warns his disciples, and Paul warns the churches that they WILL face hardship and suffering.  The disciples all chose death, stoning, being boiled alive, and crucifiction instead of returning to their previous comfortable life.  Not because they had to, but because God's love compelled them to.

When you choose to swim upstream your muscles will burn and ache and you will get slapped in the face by some salmon.  If you're comfortably floating downstream in an inner tube chances are you'll think this whole river ride is a breeze.

If you do nothing, if you stand for nothing, if you are not a threat to Satan and his ongoing deception and destruction, if you don't venture out,  if you don't speak the Word,  if you don't point to Jesus, if you don't  love the people that the lost world and the religious moralists despise.....you will feel no sting of opposition.

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." 2 Timothy 3:12

I know someone who risked it all to love a child..poured their time, affection, money and tears into a child for a decade but were turned away by one judges ruling. Opposition.  That is running toward pain, counting the cost and following Jesus.   That is not playing it safe.

If you love sacrificially,  extend grace radically,  give generously, speak truth boldly, serve with humility, step into a journey of reckless faith,  and count your own life as loss...

You will be slandered.  You will be cast out.   You will be rejected.   You will suffer loss and heartbreak.
You will be opposed.
At some point you will look at your completely empty bank account but trust that God will provide.  You will know from experience that God will give you the strength to persevere even when everything around you says quit.

And you will thank him for loving you enough to refine you even more...
and you will beg Him to show you more of His glory.

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" 1 Peter 1:6

"Do not be surprised, my brothers, when the world hates you.  We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.  Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and  you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." 1 John 3:13

"Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."  Colossians 3: 12

On a different topic.   Have you heard of Marc Martel?....he was on Ellen this past Monday because his video singing "somebody to love" by Queen went viral and he entered a cover band contest.  He is a Canadian prairie boy too.  We actually attended the same Bible College as my husband and I did.  Small world.  Anyhoo.....he and his band are called "Downhere".  They have been a favorite of mine for years.  Check them out on youtube ...then go buy their album on itunes.

Here is Marc singing a very applicable song by Keith Green.  I love it!!
"the world is sleeping in the dark that the church just can't fight 'cause' it's sleeping in the light.
how can you be so dead , when you've been so well fed?   'Cause Jesus rose from the grave dead and you can't even get out of bed"

and just for kicks...Queen.


Marcy said...

Are you inside my head or something? I've been having these very same thoughts. VERY same. Thank you for saying it here. Do you mind if I linky loo to my FB? I'm ok if you don't. Just wanted to ask.

I think Marc kills it with the Queen song(in a good way, not a creepy bad way) with his rendition. Queen was a creepy guy, but a fabulous singer. Marc sounds so much like him.

Carla said...

link loo all you want Marcy :)

Marcy said...

Thanks! Also, I listened to his Keith GReen song. That guy can seriously imitate! I am not a fan of KG's voice (and Marc had it to an irritating perfection), but his message was awesome.