Let’s play a game. Which statement did Jesus say:
Option 1: Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.’
Option 2: Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny that injustices exist and take up their comfortable seat when they feel like it and think that I’m just a nice guy but am not asking people to actually follow what I tell them. These are just suggestions after all – do them if you want to, but no worries if you don’t. For those who want to save their life have the right idea, and those who lose their life for my sake must be crazy. What does it profit them if they gain a burning faith, but lose their comfort in the process? Those who are ashamed of people who actually live out their faith because it’s uncomfortable and puts them in touch with “dirty” people and appears unsafe, of them the Son of Man will be really proud off because I don’t really mean it when I said all those things about proclaiming Good News to the poor, feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked. Who in their right mind would go and do that?!?’
Tough call huh?
In case you weren’t sure, Jesus said the first quote (Luke 9:23-26). Comfortable Christianity believes in the second one.
Comfortable Christianity is all about high invitation, low expectations. Those days are over. People want something else. They need something else actually – something that is costly. Something that is willing to die for them. That something is Jesus. Jesus is the one who gives us meaning and our lives purpose.
Jesus was big about inviting all into the kingdom. But with that invitation came high expectations. Yes, Jesus saves and because of that, we are given freedom to go and serve. This is what discipleship is all about – high invitation, high expectation.
High expectations don’t mean we are working for our salvation – rather, we’ve been set free so that we can respond to God’s love. And to whom much is given, much is expected. This will look different for different people. Sometimes high expectations look like hands on ministry with the poor. Sometimes it looks like making quilts for the homeless and the home bound. Sometimes it looks like speaking out about injustices that occur – recent examples being speaking out against putting kids in cages in detention centers. Sometimes it looks like eating a meal with someone who is poor, alone, or struggling. Sometimes it looks like praying with a person who desperately needs to feel God’s presence. Sometimes it looks like giving a stranger a ride because you can tell they need it. Sometimes it means just being with someone – being Christ’s presence in their lives, especially in a difficult time. It can look like a number of other things too.
All of these things have some things in common. They are active. They are relationship oriented. They are living out faith. They are time-consuming. They are engaged discipleship. They are community building. They are living out Jesus call to love our neighbors, our enemies, and the stranger.
They are what Jesus calls us to do in response to what he has done for us. Jesus invites many to participate in the unfolding of the kingdom. And the invitation is a free gift – it is the gift of life itself. And with the invitation comes a high expectation – that Jesus’ salvation will change our lives so much that we feel compelled to respond – to serve, to be with people, to share how an encounter with Jesus changes lives. And that’s exactly what we do in response to what God has done for us. It’s not work if you are loving it, if you can’t imagine not doing it. It’s giving love freely to others. It’s passing on the mercy and grace that we received. It’s sharing the joy of faith. It is sharing life itself.