Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A Thought

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  Matthew 7:13-14

Many have asked the legitimate question: Why does Christianity have to be so difficult?  Why is suffering necessary?  Why can’t The Lord just make a way for us so that we don’t have to suffer or watch our loved ones suffer?  Why does The Lord seem to desire that His people suffer? 

These are good questions for which there are no easy answers, but there are brutally honest answers we have to contend with.  I am corresponding with an atheist who has asked these questions, he being a man who sees no real payoff for a life of discipleship, a life of “suffering”; but it is exactly persons like these for whom these questions must be answered because real life is what it’s called – and real life cannot be put aside nor can pleasantness be simply spoken into being. 

A better understanding of what “suffering” really means will help to put things in their proper perspective.  Although we have a general understanding of “suffering” as pain or misery, the New Testament context is often probably better understood as to “allow, tolerate, or permit” – such as Jesus’ call to “suffer the little children come unto Me” (KJV).  This understanding would also be consistent with the admonition to “turn the other cheek” or “bless your enemies”.  Yet even then we need a reason to “allow, tolerate, or permit”.

The Bible does not necessary demand or require that we “suffer” as we typically understand the word.  Rather we are taught by Jesus that life is not always fair, not always just.  Life is sometimes just plain ugly.  We should remember, however, that even the Israelites had to prepare for battle as they journeyed to the Promised Land.  The Lord promised to lead the way, but the people would still have to be willing to take risks, risks that surely often put their own lives on the line as they continued to journey forward.  Yet the prize before them was must bigger than the moments they would endure on the way.

The Christian journey is like Israel’s journey through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.  We are not there yet, so we must not get so comfortable in any given moment that we forget we are not yet “home”.  To “suffer”, then (that is, to “allow”) simply means we acknowledge and deal with reality, but we do not delay our journey by getting stuck in the present or in the past.  To stay and fight is to delay or to quit and settle simply means we outright deny The Journey.  We, however, are called to forge ahead, to “deny ourselves and take up our cross”, to continue to look forward, and to follow The Lord – for He is leading us somewhere.

We are headed Home, but “difficult is the way” – and Home will not come to us.  Just as we ‘go home’ at the end of the work day, we must continue our journey together toward Home.  Our Lord is simply being brutally honest with us about what is ahead.  What is left for us is to “count the cost”, hear His assurances, and then decide which path to follow.  We must choose wisely.



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