One pastor and author I really appreciate is Brian Zahnd. I follow him on social media, love his books, and when I find the time, enjoy listening to his sermons. This past week, however, he posted a few thoughts on Facebook that I'm really struggling with. It's not that I don't agree with Brian -- I do -- but I'm struggling with the fact that sometimes the message and ministry of Jesus is JUST SO HARD. I don't like my life and my faith to drag me out of my comfort zone and be so challenging. But that's exactly what Jesus does. Here are a couple of Brian's most-recent thoughts:
"When we choose to forgive those who harm us, instead of perpetuating the cycle of revenge, we become a living imitation of Jesus Christ. As we do this we help flood a world hell-bent on paybacks with a forgiveness that washes away sin. The world is full of a lust for vengeance that fuels our conflicts-from petty quarrels to deadly wars. Christians are called to opt out of the game of getting even."
"If Jesus' call for his disciples to take up their own cross and follow his example doesn't mean that Christians are to renounce violent retaliation in favor of forgiving love, then I have no idea what it means."
Yikes...those prophetic words are hard to hear! I don't want to have to forgive those who harm me. I don't want to have to lay aside my quest for violent retaliation. I don't want my faith to stretch me so far and make me change so much! And, unfortunately, so much of what Jesus teaches and models for us is incredibly hard.
But I also know, despite its difficulty, that the way of Jesus is the best possible way of living. I know that the hard things that Jesus invites of us are actually good for us and the world. So, Brian's words -- reminding us of the hard things that Jesus calls us to -- have me thinking about a future sermon series called The Hardest Things, where we would spend time exploring and learning about the hardest things that Jesus asks of his followers. I've added it to my "sermon series" list and you can be assured that it's coming sometime in the next few years.
But until that day comes, here's to being willing to do and say the hard things that Jesus challenges us to do and say. It's not an easy journey we are invited into, but I'm so glad to be journeying the way of Jesus together with all of you. Here's to being willing to do the hardest things.