"And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:39
Come on Jesus. Couldn't you make the Christian life look a little more appealing than following you around with a Roman torture device strapped to my back? Couldn't you tame your words a bit and help us just revel in love, forgiveness and good times?
No. I guess not. The reality of the gospel is that it can be a hard pill to swallow. The reality of the good news is that it sounds like bad news sometimes doesn't it?
Why would anyone want to join Jesus in his death march? Why would anyone want to lose his life? Am I, as a Christian, called to spiritual suicide?
According to Myers-Briggs I'm a high feeler. When it comes to passages like the above a high feeler is likely to feel something like cold ice slowly sliding down his spine. That doesn't "feel" good to a feeler.
But Jesus words are a kindness aren't they? He's preparing us for the reality of being a Christian. The reality is life won't be roses for the Christian. And the reality is that if I seek to make my end this life, I'm going to forfeit the life to come. I'm not saying it, Jesus did.
Jesus, rather than letting us hold on to an ideal of having our cake and eating it to, tells us that living in this life expecting blessings while expecting the next life to hold blessings is incorrect. It would be cold comfort, as it's just not reality for the Christian.
Jesus is my Lord. That means where he goes, I go. Where does he go? Unfortunately he goes to die. So, as much as I hate to say is, so do I.
Alright, so that sort of sucks doesn't it? I don't really like the potential of all this death talk. I don't like transformation, crucifixion and self-denial, but both Jesus and I know that I am so sick that the only remedy involves the salve of death and rebirth.
It's all so counter-intuitive. No one in their right mind should become a Christian. Life is full of promise. Life can be fun. Life can be about me.
Not so for the Christian. Life is to be let go of to find. Death is entrance into full life. (I really don't like writing this stuff, I wish there was an easier way.)
But when I look at what Jesus offers in himself (friendship, healing, hope, joy, connectedness, love, freedom, peace, and eternity), and then I compare that with the vapid and meaningless directions my ego will take me, I better hurry up and pick up that cross and follow, there's no other direction to go. I'm between Jesus and a hard place.
And knowing Jesus the little I do, I believe he's got this whole paradoxical death thing figured out. And death after all is only the beginning of the story.
All of this is so morbidly depressing that I'm sort of tired of typing about it. But it changes tone when I realize who I'm following, who is calling me to come and die and who promises to never leave my side. If death was my focus, I'd never go through with it. But the truth is real life in real reality is my focus.
So I surrender Jesus, you win, at least for now. After all Jesus, it sounds so crazy it just might work.