Sunday, September 9, 2018

Is Following Jesus "Easy?" #JesusFollowers

Is following Jesus easy? Many would say yes, of course it is. After all, didn't Jesus say "my yoke is easy and my burden is light?" (Matt. 11:30)

Yes, he did say this. But as with many of the teachings of Jesus, when taken alone and out of context, we can be misled and understand the saying in a way very much opposite of what he intended.

While Jesus probably didn't speak Greek, the same word "easy" in the Greek language text that represents the earliest recorded version we have of his words means "better" and "kind" elsewhere (Luke 5:39; 6:35) 

"My yoke is Better, and Kind" adds an entire new meaning to this verse, and is certainly consistent with his Gospel. And of course, Jesus himself mentions the heavy burdens that other religious teachers of his day, namely the Pharisees, put on their followers, thus explaining the rest of the verse. (Matt. 23:4)

But, let's assume "easy" is exactly the word that was meant here by Jesus, for a moment. In Contemporary culture, we tend to think something easy means something easily accomplished, or quickly done.

Running an errand can be easy. Solving a simple math problem can be easy. Cleaning up a spilled glass of water can be easy.

So you see, Jesus doesn't call us to do something "easy," in a contemporary sense, when he speaks of the Gospel message. And this is why "easy" is a misleading English word to use to describe the Gospel of Jesus.

Being a light to the world, for example, will be met with condemnation, he says, and those who follow him would be persecuted, ridiculed, and even hated for the righteousness that they will pursue.

Jesus also said that those who followed him would be persecuted, ridiculed, and even hated for the righteousness that they would pursue. That can't be easy.

Jesus said that those who follow him should first count the costs of doing so. What costs would there be if following him costs us nothing, and is "easy"?

And of course, Jesus calls us to enter the narrow gate, not the wide one everyone else was seeking to enter. Clearly, the wide gate is the easy path to follow, but it's not the one Jesus calls us to choose.

Modern Christians often want to do what is easy. It is very seductive to believe that merely having an understanding of who Jesus is (the "Person of Jesus") and giving verbal assent to some stories about him is all that he, and God, requires of us.

The problem is, Jesus never said that we were to merely recite a few words, instantly get into heaven, and then do nothing else on the earth until we get there at the end of our earthly lives. (At least not without ripping isolated verses and words out of context.)

That would indeed be easy, but that is not the Gospel that Jesus preached. Nor would it be one worthy of the one chosen by God and anointed as his spokesman, and our example.

Instead of mere "belief on his Person" having the ability to save us, Jesus explicitly says eternal life comes from obeying his teachings, which he says come directly from God, our Creator. (Luke 11:28; John 8:31, 14:15, 14:23)

Jesus taught a vigorous and challenging Gospel, one that is worthy of our attention, and one that, when pursued actively, perfects us and makes us into the full and complete beings that God wishes us to be.

An easy Gospel, one that requires nothing of us, cannot perfect us in the way God wishes us to be perfect.

Knowing this, and having knowledge of this Gospel that Jesus preached, we should rejoice that Jesus preached it, and we should Rejoice even more if we have the courage to follow those teachings.

Let us, therefore, be Jesus Followers!

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