Jesus described a next to impossible way of life in order to be His follower. Being a Christian is more difficult now than ever before.
One of the saints said when she talked to the Lord, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.” With all the bad news we have in the world we might be tempted to think that God is testing us or punishing us or checking to see if we will remain faithful. There is nothing new under the sun. We just forget history. People who ignore or forget history tend to repeat it. We have never had such wonderful systems of communication and yet, we hear what we want to hear. In spite of the warnings and restrictions the number of infected people continues to rise. We hear what we want to hear and often think, “That doesn’t apply to me.” We usually process anything that we don’t want to do in the same way—by thinking, “That doesn’t apply to me.” The words of Jesus have been ignored with the same reasoning. “Don’t love your family more than you love God. Don’t look to save your life or you will lose it. Always offer hospitality, even to the people you do not like.” Certainly, those directives were not meant for all of us. Jesus must have been kidding when He said that we have to love our enemies, forgive over and over and be willing to die for each other. Selective memory kicks in like a defense mechanism and we justify ourselves because we know that we are right and everybody else is wrong. With similar attitude wars have been fought, families have separated and violence on the streets is at an all time high. Indeed, being a follower of Jesus is very difficult. The name is used and countless call themselves Christians, but actions are inconsistent.
Christianity is the only religion where God died for people. The One to whom we sacrificed became the sacrifice—so that we would no longer be afraid. Jesus, who is God, revealed the image of a loving Father, not a punishing judge. He showed us, by example, to be servants. Jesus taught that titles, possessions, places of honor do not matter. What matters is how we love, to the extent that we are willing to serve. Jesus was given many opportunities to become powerful, He refused. Rather, He chose to associate with the untouchables, the notorious sinners, the forgotten people. Little wonder that He was hung on a cross, because He didn’t want what everybody else wanted—fame, fortune and glory.
Popular opinion pointed in one direction and Jesus pointed in the opposite direction. His message is countercultural. Christianity is not a club. Certainly not intended for us to “feel good”. Unlike popular evangelists, Jesus never intended for us to think that when things go our way, then we are being “blessed”; but when things do not go as we want, “then we are lacking faith”. There is no secret combination of prayers for us to get what we want—as many of the emails indicate—with the notice that if we pass on the content, we will be blessed but if we do not, bad things will happen. (That stuff is no better than the old fashion “chain letters”). Jesus was clear with His followers and told them that they would suffer for the sake of the Kingdom. Christianity comes at a high price. Because the truth hurts. We do not want to hear that adultery is a sin, that marriage is until death, that we are called to be peacemakers. The Christian message has been watered down to fit ideologies, philosophies, or to justify prejudice. Our customs change. Some of us can remember when it was a grave sin to eat meat on any Friday during the year. Now we only abstain during Fridays of Lent. Customs change, but the message of the Gospel remains the same, whether we want to hear it or not. We cannot place anything or anyone above the Gospel.
Our love for Jesus Christ must come first. We have daily opportunities to show that we are Christians by how we treat each other, especially the least among us.