I took an informal poll on Facebook the other day where I asked my friends what they thought people wish for at their core. More than one person said something along the lines of “living a long and healthy life.” “I want to find love and have a family.” And the super cliche pageant answer of “World peace.”
Ironically, the Jesus that I follow shoots holes in each of these three categories in Matthew 10:34. He says (to summarize),
“Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace, but my coming will bring division. Families will reject one another. To love me the most, you might have to endure the breakdown of your family. To love me the most, you might have to even lose your life. But those who lose their life for me will actually find it.”
Perhaps shamefully, I find it hard to hear these as Jesus’ words. They sound more like a malicious dictator than the savior of the world. And if he’s another in the line of wild-eyed leaders in this world I definitely want to stay away. But in diving deeper into the heart of Jesus message, I find there are three reasons that drive me to *want* to follow him.
He told me the struggle was real.
Jesus never pulls a bait-and-switch on people. He’s brutally honest and tender at the same time. Knowing a battle might be ahead never stopped humanity from entering wars. The same is true for Christians who know that allegiance to God may bring criticism and harshness from those without faith.
I can take my cross, because he took his.
The shocking claim in this passage isn’t that family would turn on one another, or even that Jesus wasn’t primarily concerned with peace in the world. The real shocker is that he would tell his followers the very words that a Roman executioner would tell a guilty criminal: “take your cross and follow me.” These are words to people without rights. But shortly after enigmatically sharing this with his disciples, Jesus would himself take up his own cross and follow a Roman soldier down the one-way road to death.
If Easter Sunday never came, the rest of the story is meaningless. But since Jesus did rise from the dead, all those who have faith in him and follow him are not just equipped to follow him into eternity, but we have the strength to follow him with a cross on our backs. The easy part of Christianity is dying. The true test is how you live before then.
Losing gains me the most irresistible of rewards.
It’s his last statement that seals the deal for me, that whoever would lose his or her own life for his sake would find it. I know few greater paradoxes in the world, yet Jesus lived this out. He lost his life for our sake, and rose from the dead to gain us everything. And the crazy thing is that the resurrected Jesus offers us new peace because of his cross. And he offers us a new family because of the cross. And he offers us new life because of the cross.
Clearly these aren’t the words of a dictator. They’re the words of the only divine savior. And I’m happy to lose all for him.