Jesus clearly said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
I can be slow to pick up on things. So it has taken me some time to become aware of a nagging feeling in the back of my mind as I sit in church on Sunday mornings. It finally dawned on me what’s been bothering me.
It’s this: That a lot of what is said in my church during the weekly sermons is really easy to hear. It’s reassuring and thoughtful and kind-hearted. My pastors (wonderful people that I sincerely love) assure us of our salvation and God’s love. That He’s there with us. That we can carry His love home with us.
So I leave feeling warm and loved and content … but I don’t leave challenged. I think that’s what’s missing.
Are we, I wonder, making Christianity too easy?
Jesus Calls the Church to Serve
Attend my church, and you’ll hear that God is a nice Guy who’s easy to get along with.
If He does have any hard edges, they’ve been rounded off, so you won’t feel uncomfortable or offended. The sermons won’t ask you to sacrifice your comfort or your safety or your lifestyle. Only that you be kind and feel love in your heart for others. That you know that Jesus will always be there for you. And that if God wants you to do something for Him, He’ll nudge you.
Lately I’ve been reading what the Bible has to say about God’s expectation of His followers, and how we are to show up in the world so that others see Him in us. I think it’s so much more than what I’m being told on Sunday mornings.
Jesus clearly said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)
The “deny himself and take up his cross” bit sounds hard — if not dangerous. I mean, look what happened to Jesus!
In 1 Peter 2:21 we’re told, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His footsteps.” Jesus Himself added, “And whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
Jesus Calls You and Me
Did you catch that last part? It stands out to me. I think because it’s now my heart’s desire to be a committed disciple. I’m hungry for those nudges!
I think Jesus is saying that we must actively make the choice to take action. To not just THINK about doing what He says, but to actually DO it. So we can’t just exit church with the idea of loving our neighbors, we should seek out opportunities to do so. (And not talk ourselves out of heeding those nudges!)
Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
I will be the first to admit that I don’t always love well. But I’m trying, as I ask Jesus for His help. And I’ve begun to step outside my comfort zone. In volunteering with an organization that focuses on a need within the homeless community, I can truly say that it is as I am serving that I hear God’s voice clearly. He’s no longer just an idea or feeling, but a real person whom I’m representing.
The apostle John wrote, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)
“In actions and in truth” … actively aiding those in need. Giving not just our money or possessions, but ourselves in the offering. Not always safely loving others remotely, but loving them in person, where it can feel hard and messy.
Can I challenge you to do the “hard thing” of moving past your comfort zone? To love like Jesus in a tangible way in your own community?
Scripture clearly calls us to do hard things for Christ, even when it’s costly. Is it worth it? I think so!