I’m going to break one of my golden rules here. I’m going to take a story I was told and attempt to turn it into a lesson about Jesus. Mostly because that is exactly what happened in my brain when I heard about this.
I’m back in school, by the way. My first class is this evening, 7-9:45. How many of you can make it through a two hour and forty-five minute World History class?
Yesterday, I stopped by the college to check with the financial aid department and make sure everything was squared away and my name would show up on my History professor’s roster. While waiting to be seen, I sank into what has to be one of the most comfortable couches ever made. As I debated taking a nap, a girl in the lounge told us the funniest thing I had heard all day.
Apparently, a few days ago two guys were relaxing in the waiting room. Of course it was assumed they were waiting to be seen. But after about thirty minutes, one of them said, “You ready to head to class, man?” The other guy said, “Yep,” and they walked out as if it were a perfectly normal thing to just chill in the financial aid waiting room between classes.
I laughed, but then I had an unsettling thought. One of those annoying moments where God nudges me closer to Him.
I love those moments.
How many people enjoy the comforts and perks of Christianity without every actually following Jesus?
I remember reading One.Life by Scot McKnight and running across this statement:
“Followers of Jesus follow Jesus.”
Groundbreaking, right? I must have read that sentence twenty times, trying to figure out if McKnight was being sarcastic or flippant. Then I remembered Matthew 7:21, where Jesus says, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”
I thought about these two young men who were taking advantage of the comforts of the financial aid waiting room without actually seeking financial aid. They were there for the perks, not for the service. Then, I thought about the large number of Christians who show up on Sunday mornings for the perks and comforts of being in church, but little intention of taking Jesus seriously when he says, “you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24b).
It could be the music. It could be the comfy pews. It could be the charismatic preacher. It could be that the person grew up in church and it was just always what you did: get up every Sunday morning and go to church.
But a lot of times, people partake of the perks of Christianity for bragging rights and that just tears my heart apart.
Because I realize I’ve been guilty of this, as well.
I don’t know the suffering of those who follow Jesus at the risk of their own lives. I don’t know what it’s like to gather in hiding or pray in secret because to follow Jesus is to suffer persecution and punishment.
But I know if I say I’m a Christian and I show up on Sunday mornings, that usually comes with some benefits.
But when I take Jesus seriously, it is uncomfortable. Sometimes it hurts… a lot. I have to surrender, to sacrifice, to love the unlovable. I have to look sin and temptation in the face and resist its allure, even when everyone else around me is giving in because to the world it’s just what you do. I have to pull away from the comforts of surrounding myself with other Christians because I know I can comfortably talk about my faith.
When did Christians begin to compact Jesus’s words into a conservative little box marked “OPEN ONLY ON SUNDAYS, EASTER, AND CHRISTMAS”?
I’m probably going to lose some readers when I say this, but…
If following Jesus has been easy for you, then you’re not doing it right.
There, I said it. I’m not talking about a willingness to follow Him. I’m talking about physical comfort, breaking our of your shell, giving up your possessions, sharing the gospel with sinners and unbelievers, taking care of the poor. It can be really easy to become complacent in our Christian walk because most of us don’t have to struggle because of our faith.
Jesus said to seek the Kingdom of God “above all else.” 365, 24/7. Not just one day a week and on religious holidays. Jesus’s parables demonstrate a Kingdom so incredible that those who truly want to see it and be a part of it will give up ALL comfort and conformity to seek its glory. Jesus sets a standard so high and lofty that no human could ever reach it without seeking Him first and following Him to God’s glory. Jesus also said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
But I look around and I see a lot of Christians who more closely resemble Pharisees and Sadducees than followers of Jesus. You may wear the holy garments, memorize Bible verses, have a Jesus fish bumper magnet, and spend a lot of time in a church building. But follow Jesus? Well, He wasn’t really talking to me. That’s mostly for pastors and missionaries, people who have been called.
If you accepted Jesus as your Lord and savior, if you recognize that Jesus is both the Son of God and God incarnate, then you have been called. Wide is the gate that leads to hell and many will choose that path. But narrow is the gate to the Kingdom of God.
Check your motivations. Are you willing to follow Jesus, or do you just want to chill in the lounge for a bit every Sunday until it’s time to get back to your real life on Monday?
I’m choosing to enter the narrow gate. I pray that you will, too.