As a Christ follower I tend to look at life through a lens of guilt. Now before you say but Christ has set you free from guilt, and his grace is sufficient and you know all those things. I don’t mean that I feel guilty all the time, I don’t mean that guild over rides my heart and mind any more. It used to but that’s all water that has long since emptied into the sea of forgetfulness, I still remember it but it’s not with the angst that was so prevalent. No when I say I look at life through a lens of guilt it has more to do with the continuing saga that is the attempt to live a life that is stamped with the marks of being more and more like Jesus.
So if the opening statement of this post is all about the idea of feeling guilty when I don’t act, think, or react the way Jesus would, why is it titled the delicate balance.
I think that there is so much in scripture that tells us how to live lives that are pleasing to Christ, and that make others that are stumbling around in their own vain attempts at finding the thing that makes them complete take notice, not of all the rules and regulations that come from christianity, but of a life that is lived in obedience to Christ and His teachings. Scriptures that talk about love, and grace, mercy, compassion, are important, I think that they are to be the bulk of how we share Jesus with a world that is tired. I really think that’s the long and short of it. People in general are tired of things. Tired of politics, tired of scandals, tired of war, tired of 20 something celebrities behaving badly just for the press it garners. People are tired and they are looking for people that are going to be real. That are going to say what they have to say and then, wonder of wonders actually live that way, or do that thing that they have said they would do.
In Mark, Peter makes the following statement to Jesus; Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said. Mar 10:28 (NLT) I think the fast majority of christians do the same thing. They look at the things that their friends, co workers and acquaintances are doing and when and if they take time to actually converse with God, they point out all the “fun” they aren’t having. Sometimes they even go a step further and talk to other christians about all that they have done, all that they have given up. Perceived sacrifice is huge in our own minds, and a great way to prove how tight we are with Jesus. Many times we grab a hold of the first part of Jesus reply. It’s one of those promises that Christians like to point to…”Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—. Mar 10:29 -30 (NLT) Doesn’t that sound great, isn’t that an awesome promise. If I give stuff up for God I get it all back with interest. I’ve actually heard people say that from the pulpit. This tends to be one of those carrot on a stick passages used to lure people into making a commitment to Christ. There’s just one problem, see that hyphen that just seems to sit at the end of the verse? I like to look at that as the pause that Jesus must have taken when he was getting ready to drop the bomb that was to come.
There is a delicate balance that goes on in our lives, at least there should be. This balance has to do with how we look at the different stages of our lives.
1. The life we lived:
Many people look at their life before they chose to start on the path to a relationship with Jesus as a time of great loss, a time that they were blind, that they were searching fill in all the sad parts that people attribute to their life before Christ. The problem is I wonder if people really do look at their life without Jesus in that way. I wonder if there are times that they look back and are honest enough to say that things were easier before they decided to accept the sacrifice that Jesus made and to live a life that was going to constantly be at odds with friends, family members, co-workers. The life we lived may have been spiritually empty, but I would venture to say that for most of us it was full of things that kept us busy, things that distracted us, things that we enjoyed. I think that there just came a point that the spiritual emptiness became to big to ignore. So we have all these things before we make the jump to a relationship with Jesus.
2. The life we live:
This is where I peg that will receive 100 fold part of the verse. When we start to follow Christ the things that were fun suddenly don’t do it for us any more. We don’t enjoy them as much, many times we recognize that they don’t really line up with how Jesus would act so we cut them out of our life, we lose friends who may think we just aren’t fun any more, or that all we want to do is talk about God. Family members may walk away, not able to handle being around someone who always judges them. The sad thing about the last one is, at least most of the time there is no real judgment on the Christ followers part, just a realization on the family members part that there are things in their life that they would like to change, people that drag them down, and choices that they would like to somehow unmake. Still there is a loss here and it’s that loss that can be made up for when the Christ follower attaches him or herself to a community of believers that is also doing their best to follow Christ. I think that’s what Jesus is talking about. Sure we lose out on the things that we used to enjoy and some of the people we used to be with, but when we really make a connection into a local group of other Christ Followers we are seeing the fulfillment of that promise. Now for the rest of the life we will live…—along with persecution. Mar 10:30 (NLT) This is the part we don’t want to read, this is the part we wish we could ignore, and unfortunately this is the part that many Christian leaders, especially ones in America use to point out how downtrodden they are when they don’t like something happening in the Government or in the Media. I read and hear them say things like: “It’s only going to get worse.” Many times it becomes something to try to change, something to try to stand against, we want to get out of the along with persecution part of our walk with Christ, mainly because it’s not fun. I just don’t see that happening. We are going to be misunderstood, misquoted, and disliked, there are going to be groups of people that are going to try and make it hard to be a Christ follower, that also is a promise that Jesus made. He told us you will be persecuted. It will happen, he didn’t say try and get out of it, he didn’t say speak out about how downtrodden you are. He said it’s going to happen and you will have to live with it, in fact realize that “my grace is enough to help you deal with it.”
3. The life we will live:
And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. Mar 10:30 (NLT)
I really don’t think I need to explain this part of it.
Here’s where the delicat balance comes in. We have to understand that life as a Christ follower brings with it all sorts of baggage. Christians like to point out the baggage that gets left behind when a person recognizes a need for a relationship with Jesus, we just don’t like to point out the baggage that is going to be picked up. That baggage looks conspicuously like a Cross…after all that’s what we are to do if we are really following Jesus, take up the cross and follow.