I admit that I find the gospel of partnering with God for the healing of the world much, much harder than the gospel of God loves you and wants to give you a ticket to heaven.
It’s harder emotionally, physically, financially, socially and culturally. It’s tiring. Without the Holy Spirit, without worship, without community I’d give up and go back to that old gospel. It was easier in those days, for sure.
It was easier when it was about me and my blessing, my healing, my salvation and inviting other people to enjoy my amazing new life. It was much easier when it was about going to church. About finding a Sunday service that made me feel good and affirmed what I already believed. It was easier when I could modify some moral behaviours and then live for myself, my ambition, my convenience and my comfort around that. It was easier when, because I knew my eternity was sorted, I could spend my days accumulating experiences, success, approval, dollars, possessions, relationships and the accolades that come from “ministry”.
It was certainly easier when sharing the gospel meant telling people they could join me in all of the above because Jesus had died to make it possible. Much easier to get people on board with that agenda.
What’s hard is realising that it’s never not going to be hard. All of us are hoping for, and trying to achieve, that day, when parenting isn’t so hard, work isn’t so hard, bills aren’t so hard to pay, our bodies aren’t so unruly and relationships aren’t so difficult. With all that hardness going on surely my faith can just be about me and what makes me feel good? Surely.
It was easier when it was. When I found what was right for me and could lie back and soak in it.
It was easier when the devastation of the earth, the exploitation of people, the racism, homophobia, sexism and hatred, the war, the poverty and other people’s problems weren’t my problem. It was much easier.
It was easier to avoid a hard day. Much easier to avoid hard work. Easier to feel indifferent about my low commitment to my fellow travellers – after all, we’re going to spend eternity together, do I really need to see them every week?
It was easier when being an individual was ok and “community” meant I go to church sometimes when something better isn’t on. It was easier.
Unfortunately it wasn’t the gospel that Jesus taught.
What’s not easier is “take up your cross daily and follow me.”
For two reasons.
1. It’s a cross.
2. It’s daily.
It’s a cross of suffering. Of service. Of submission. Of joining in the pain of others. Of sharing in the oppression and injustice of humanity. Yes, it’s a cross of hope and victory – but those only through sacrificial, self-giving love in action.
It’s every day. It’s certainly not 6 days for me and 1 day for God. It’s take up a cross of suffering, service and self-giving sacrificial, all-inclusive love every day.
That’s hard. Simply, it means living for God and others, something we can all readily agree with.
But break that down into daily choices, behaviour, priorities… then we start to struggle.
It’s the realisation that God’s plan for community isn’t about finding somewhere nice to have my beliefs affirmed and feel spiritual, but about banding together with a group of people who are taking up the same cross every day and helping each other bear it. (People who say you don’t need to “go to church” are right. You need to be the church, which is about daily shouldering the Cross of unconditional love and self-pouring out on behalf of others.
To those people who are all about saying they don’t need to be committed to a weekly gathering of the church to follow Christ I say if you can’t commit to one morning a week, can’t build in rhythms of life that aren’t about our comfort and convenience, then how are you going picking up a cross of service every day?)
It’s about knowing that while the systems of this world of sin are robbing people of dignity all around us it is incumbent upon the followers of Christ to act…
It’s realising that the cross of suffering and self-sacrifice must be hoisted to the shoulders daily, not in theology or philosophy but in action and lifestyle…
Then that’s a different proposition.
I’m sure James and John found fishing easier than the adventure being fishers of men took them on.
I am sure Saul found being a self-righteous, tent-making theologian easier than the whippings, shipwrecks, stonings, homelessness and hunger he experienced as the Apostle Paul.
I’m sure Jesus found being an unknown carpenter easier than betrayal, ridicule and crucifixion.
It was easier in the days when it was about me, it just wasn’t the gospel.
It used to be a lot easier. When it was all about me. Easier to feel good about my choices… Now I have to think so deeply and wonder about my own motivations.
It was easier to be on about that other gospel. Easier to preach about, easier to get people to sign up to.
It just wasn’t the same gospel that Jesus was on about, preached about or asked people to sign up to.
It just wasn’t the gospel, that’s all.