Last week I commented that I have been making observations on the Christian life, some of which may raise eyebrows, but without making a clear statement of where I’m coming from. So I may have sounded like a loose cannon, firing random shots. Not very appealing. So let’s see if I can explain myself a little better.
Insight One. The Christian life is a stern, demanding calling. Biblical grounding for this abounds. The first commandment – love the Lord God with heart and mind and soul and strength. Not much room for half- heartedness there. The rich young ruler who came to Jesus. A modern evangelical would probably have told him, “Sure! Welcome aboard.” Perhaps along with the hope that he might learn about stewardship somewhere along the way, but maybe not even that. And those who came to Jesus volunteering to be followers, only to be told, “I often don’t have a bed to sleep in. It’ll be under a hedgerow somewhere tonight. Is that the lifestyle you want?” Come on Jesus, you’re supposed to be hooking any converts you can get, not putting them off! “Take up your cross and follow me.” Pause for a moment and think how that invitation would have impacted First Century hearers.
A corollary of this insight – can you find one instance of a Biblical character being commended for some exploit of outstanding faith and courage? The centurion’s faith - “I’ve not found such faith in all Israel” - is about the one example I can think of. Generally, outrageous faith is treated as ordinary. Just the way it’s supposed to be. For example, Peter walks on the water to Jesus. Is he commended for this act of daring? Nope! He’s chided for letting his faith slip. “Come on Peter! It’s me, remember?”
So far, Insight One might not sound very appealing. It probably sounds legalistic, hard, raising visions of the judgmental, joyless Pharisee. That’s why it must go hand in hand with ……
Insight Two. The Christian life is refreshing, appealing, exuberant. In Jesus’ story of the man who bought a field that contained hidden treasure, have you noticed that he tells us why the man bought the field? For joy. In fact, that story is not a lesson in ethical business practice – it’s a story about joy. Jesus promised that when he left, the Holy Spirit would come to live within believers. Wow! What could be more exuberant than having the Creator God living within as friend and comforter? Back in December, I posted a blog entitled “He Who Commands?” It pointed out that although Jesus is our authority, he doesn’t come to us as he who must be obeyed. He comes to us as friend, the one we follow out of joy.
I often tell my clients, “Jesus waits for you to wake up in the morning so he can bounce on the trampoline with you.
So, two insights to be embraced together. That is why in past references to the Christian journey, I have used words like “difficult, demanding, confusing”, right along with words like “exuberant, exciting, fulfilling”. I think that in the Narnia stories, Lewis does a good job of intertwining sternness with joy.
Trust the above makes my meaning clearer.