Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?

When Jesus was feeding people and doing miracles, they loved Him. Who wouldn't!? Then He had to mess it up by talking about stuff that was kind of weird to those who were following Him:

So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." (Joh 6:53-58)

At this many people had the same sort of reaction we see today, they voted with their feet:

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" (Joh 6:60)

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (Joh 6:66)

Those who didn't like what He had to say were not His sheep. It was hard to hear, this teaching that Jesus had for them. Jesus knew that many who ate the food He provided were not His sheep because He knew from before time began who His sheep were. How did He know? Because they were predestined to believe (Acts 13:48), given to the Son by the Father (John 10:29). It must have been jarring to them to hear these words but it was awfully easy for them to turn away and look for a way to fulfill their needs somewhere else.

Most of the church is OK with what Jesus was saying in John 6. We understand, at least academically, what Jesus meant. The who Jesus is? That we have little problem with as Christians today.

The way we are to live? Now that we have issues with.

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luk 12:33-34)

And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mat 22:37-39)

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Act 4:32-35)

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (Jas 4:4)

And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luk 9:23-24)

When you read those verses, do you say "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"? I like my new car. I like my cable TV and my high speed internet. I like my convenience and luxury, even those things that I don't recognize as being luxuries. We fool ourselves by convincing ourselves that we can live among and with the world and remain unspotted. We want it both ways, forgiveness of sins and an eternal reward then and worldly pleasures now.

What keeps you from a life of service to God? For me it is the twin temptation of comfort and security. I accept the world's social contract to do what it tells me to do in return for warmth and security. I am safe, I am warm, I am never hungry just so long as I walk as the world says to walk. When I contemplate walking as Jesus calls us to walk, it scares me. I try to assuage my guilt by assuming that what Jesus wants is for me to worry about my kids, but even in that it is self-serving.

Lots of Western Christians talk about this. Almost no one actually does much about it. Like the teaching about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, it becomes an academic argument for us, something to ponder perhaps but never to live out. The ways we can twist those text from Jesus around and make them fit our lifestyles is brilliant. It is also dishonest. When we feel twinges of guilt, we put a couple more bucks in the offering plate. We get more religious because religion makes us feel good about ourselves, makes us seem holy to ourselves and those around us. Religion allows us an out, a way to feel like we are doing God's will while in reality we are doing our own will. It insulates us. Meanwhile live and raise our kids to look like the world and look on contentedly as the world dies all around us.

When are we going to stop playing church and start being the church?

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Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding snarky, I'd be genuinely interested to know what you have done or plan to do in your life in response to these verses? I know you've been bringing up the issue lately of possessions and calling out the church as a whole, which is not necessarily wrong--I think the church as a whole is definitely missing the mark in this area. I'm just wondering how you've let it impact your own life. I know this is something I wrestle with often, especially as one who is not in the position of making the financial decisions for our family.

Arthur Sido said...

Not snarky at all, that is a legitimate question and one I wish I could answer with some sort of pious response. Truth is, we haven't done much. This goes way beyond merely finances (which are a big part of it) and goes to a sacrificial servant lifestyle. I am mostly posing these questions out loud, trying to work it out in my own head and decide what we need to do. Following a Dave Ramsey program isn't going to get it done, what we need as a family is not a financial transformation but a whole life transformation.