If I’m honest: following Jesus is hard.
Life is messy, and faith means putting my trust in someone I can’t see and being willing to submit to a will that is not completely my own.
Living by faith means being willing to look, with ever-increasing clarity, at the true nature of who I am as a sinner. And also being willing to admit that I am in need of someone to do for me what I could not possibly do for myself. I think it is far easier for humans to agree that we are dependent on one another, and undeniably more challenging to agree that we need God.
But the glory of God’s story is that this need isn’t shameful – it is how we were designed. We were designed to know our Father, to walk with him and be in a relationship with him. Sin keeps us hiding in shame and fighting the truth with blame. But to know Jesus is to know the answers to all of the deepest, most secret, questions in our hearts: Am I lovable? Does anyone want me? Does it even matter that I’m here? Who will choose me? Will anyone fight for me?
And on the cross, Jesus made the answers to these questions clear: Yes. You are dearly loved. You matter deeply to me. I will not only fight for you – I will lay down my life for you.
The moments when we truly grasp His love and His grace, we are at peace. We are free to see ourselves as Jesus does. And we are free to love others in a way we weren’t able to before, because we recognize them as fellow image bearers of a loving and gracious God. And when people see us love those around us in this way, they take notice. Something in their world turns upside down as love is shown when it “shouldn’t” be, as friendship is cultivated with those who have been socially cast aside, and as fewer and fewer lines are drawn in the sand about who is acceptable and who is not.
Following Jesus is radical and risky because it requires a faith that moves us out of our comfort zones, turns the world’s wisdom on its head, and humbles us. Often times, we find ourselves shoulder to shoulder with someone we now call family, when under different circumstances, we might have been at odds with them or found them undeserving of our time, or certainly our love.
“Christian love”, says D.A. Carson, “is mutual love among social incompatibles.”
Following Jesus is a Christian’s life work, and while it presents significant challenges, it is our highest and holiest task. Here’s why: as we grow in intimacy with the Lord and learn to love others in the ways He has loved us, we present a beautiful picture to the non-believing world of God’s character and heart for His people, beckoning them to draw closer to Him. And this has the ability to change everything.
Ultimately, the seed of faith God plants in our hearts grows to become a flourishing tree of hope for others. And I plant my flag firmly in this: regardless of our actions for or against God’s will to bring His kingdom on earth, He will be, and already is, victorious! And that’s a righteous reason for hope. Amen.