Difficult Times

A little over a century ago, the English writer and lay theologian, G. K. Chesterton, wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”  Chesterton understood a very significant truth about many of us who profess Christianity—our lives often do not line up with our professions.

Now I’m not talking about moral perfection—no one except Jesus has every lived a sinless life.  What I am talking about is the serious efforts necessary to truly be a disciple of Jesus.  Our Lord put it quite simply, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24).  Many of us want to follow Jesus as long as it does NOT involve “self-denial” and “picking up a cross.”

Can we be honest and admit that following Jesus is at best extremely challenging?  Notice just a few of the teachings of our Lord from the Sermon on the Mount with which we either struggle or just plain ignore:

“If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.”

 “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.”

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  (Mt. 5-7)

The last one by itself—the Golden Rule—is a truth that would change the whole world if followers of Jesus just took it seriously.

We live in a world filled with anger and hatred.  Jesus’ called to “agape” love is the only thing that will right a world turned upside down.  But, if you’re like me, you enjoy “anger” just a little too much and you want to reserve the right to “hate” others if they truly deserve it.

The King James Version translates Matthew 5:22 this way, “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.”  Would it shock you to know that “without a cause” is NOT part of the original text?  That’s why most modern translations leave it out.  Early copiers of the New Testament inserted “without a cause” because a blanket condemnation against anger seem impossible to follow.  Impossible?  Or just more difficult that most want to try?  I suspect we need to revisit the wisdom of G. K. Chesterton.

God bless,