One of the ironies of our current culture is that most people today find Jesus rather boring. Most people don’t mind Jesus, but they don’t really love him or hate him either. This proves that which proves they haven’t actually met him.
No one in the Bible was ever bored with Jesus. The real Jesus was polarizing; people either loved him or hated him. The more attractive he grew to some, the more loathsome he grew to others. Certain people thronged to him, while others plotted his death.
That’s why I love it when I bump up against a tough saying of Jesus, like you find in Luke 12:51: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Here is Jesus confronting each and every one of us, saying, “I didn’t come to be a religious addition to your life. I came to turn your entire world upside-down.”
Four questions in light of that:
1. Have I “owned” Jesus in all my relationships?
Are we really letting Jesus take the lead in our families? Parents, are you teaching your kids to obey Jesus more than you? The Christian world is filled with parents who don’t want their kids to obey God and go on the mission field. And if they must defy you to obey God, then that’s what Jesus is asking. But do we really want our kids to obey God in spite of us?
Are we letting Jesus redirect our work? I know business leaders in the community who have lost jobs because they refused to sacrifice their integrity. I know others who were ostracized or fired for sharing their faith. As our society continues to debate about public religious liberty, this may be more and more costly for us. Are we going to own Jesus at our workplaces?
Will you own Jesus in your friendships? Will you continue to confess Christ in the midst of withering criticism from those you hold most dear? When they lie about you, and cut you out of their circles? Or will you treasure certain relationships more than your devotion to Christ?
2. Am I obeying him with what’s in front of me right now?
It’s pretty easy to talk about “total sacrifice” in the abstract. Would I die for Jesus? Of course! But are we obeying him right now? It’s always easier to be obedient in a dramatic hypothetical than in the nitty-gritty of life. Before we say we’re willing to have our throats slit for Jesus, we need to examine our current habits. Are we serving others, giving to the mission, or spending time in biblical community?
Here’s a huge one: are we submitting to the biblical pattern of sexual ethics? Most young Christians have no qualms with sleeping together before marriage. What business do we have saying we would die for Jesus when we aren’t willing to obey him with our lives today? Dying isn’t the hard part; living is.
3. Do I have any conditions for following Jesus?
What areas do I insist that God provide for me if I’m going to follow him? I have been tempted this way plenty in the past, and I know people who have walked away from Jesus because of some pain or disappointment in their life. They thought that they deserved a better marriage, or a better job, or they were broken up about somebody’s death.
All that revealed was that Jesus wasn’t “all” to them. He was a means to an end. When the means stopped working, they looked for a better one. Jesus doesn’t want us following him because he’s the fast track to a better life; he wants us to follow him without reservation and without condition.
4. Where I am causing division, am I doing it like him?
Sadly, a lot of Christians take Jesus’ words about division and they apply them in all the wrong ways. They’re divisive, but only because they’re acting like jerks.
But Jesus didn’t cause division like that. Jesus spoke the truth, and when that caused division, he drew all of the fire onto himself. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
We tend to defend ourselves in anger, but Jesus bore our insults with compassion. We tend to press the issue, but Jesus patiently responded to different people in different ways. We tend to dismiss people when they disagree with us, but Jesus was able to clearly confront sin and still draw us close to him.
Is there division in your life because of Christ? Or do people around you still think Jesus is boring?