“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
One of the main things that I like about the Jesus of Scripture (aside from Him saving me from being deep fried in sulfur and stuff) is this: He didn’t pawn flapdoodle off on His friends, followers or foes. He told them the unvarnished, non-tweaked, very un-PC, straight up truth—whether folks liked it or not.
Jesus, The Warrior King, wasn’t a needy autoerotic politician who would tell you whatever in order to get elected. He was the Savior out to salvage dunderheads like us from temporal and eternal self-destruction. This mission of rescuing our souls from eternally roasting on Dante’s Viking Grill coupled with us having a productive schlep on this globe required that Christ tell us truth and not goofy fairy tales. That sounds nice and good on paper, but truth—like some girls without makeup — can be scary.
Truth was odd in Jesus’ day and is even rarer in ours, and that’s what makes Christ appealing and our man-pleasing bootlicks appalling (at least to me). Y’know, we love to love Jesus; however, I’m a guessin’ that if Jesus were around in today’s feel-good-grin-until-your-
I believe like never before that America’s GP can’t handle plain dealing. I can hear Nicholson screaming now, “You want to know the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” Yes, I hear voices. Mostly high-pitched, angry Chinese voices. Anyway, we have officially become wussies with a capital W when it comes to hearing what we need to hear versus what we want to hear. Reality makes our tummies hurt. We say we want the truth and love the truth, but when it comes to stuff regarding our lives we’d appreciate the sword’s edge being dulled a bit, thank you.
Even though this penchant for being pampered is more egregious in our day, this is nothing new, and the apostle Paul warned his first mate Timothy in the first century about such a funk in Ephesus amongst religious wonks who wouldn’t listen, read, watch, download or tithe to anything which didn’t stroke their soft underbelly.
Check it out in 2 Timothy 4:1-5 . . .
1 I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, 2 so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple. 3 You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. 4 They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. 5 But you – keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant. (Message).
In contrast with the ear ticklers Timothy had to field, Christ who is the way, the truth and the life didn’t trade in bunkum. He said it’s the truth that’ll set you free and sometimes, most times, that truth is more uncomfortable to our me-monkey psyches than being constipated during a Celine Dion concert. Being constipated is bad enough. Being constipated and having to listen to Celine Dion for two hours . . . plus an encore . . . brutal. Kill me now, Lord.
The Scriptural blurb from the gospel of John states that Christ promised His chosen disciples, His boys, His hombres, His amigos that they would go through “hell.” Not literally, but figuratively. He said “ye shall have tribulation.” My translation in the King Doug Contra Mundus Version of the Bible is this, “Sometimes boys . . . in this life, things are gonna suck and suck bad. Really bad. I’m talking worse than an airplane toilet.”
The Son of God didn’t Lysol disinfect the fact that if you cast your lot with Him that it’ll cost you. He told them truth. He warned them that trouble was coming their way. And not just a little pinch but rather major pain on the tribulation-size scale. For you junk food eaters, that would be super-size problems.
He didn’t exempt His mates from pain as some kind of celestial perk just because they believed in Him but rather assured them that pressure, oppression, tribulation, affliction and dire straits we’re coming to a theater near them. But He also told them not to sweat it because in Him they were going to be able to tap into unshakable assurance, deep peace and serious cojones while the unwashed masses simply flapped about. That’s all He promised them. Which ain’t bad, mind you.
Compare that 411 of promised pain that Christ hit His disciples with to the la-di-da painless, be a better you, positive, 24/7 sunshine and birds chirpin’ smack doled out by mega-churches most of the time. You’d think by listening to these ministers of misinformation and half truths that coming to Christ exempts you from the excrement of life. I’d love it if all the little cheery ditties these televangelists say were true and all I had to do was just believe in Jesus, be positive, and my life would turn into a lite beer commercial, but the fact of the matter is that following Christ is brutal. I suggest if you chose, or rather get chosen, to be on His team that you put on a cup.
Because Christ gave His guys the heads up that they could possibly lose anything and everything from their reputations to their heads, the original twelve were a tad pluckier than our current pusillanimous pack. The first century boys heard from the horse’s mouth, no offense Lord, that bovine scatology would be par for their course.
This had a toughening effect upon their hides. Yep, you do not read about these gents making mountains out of molehills, squealing about their pinched flesh, becoming atheists when they didn’t get a new squeaky toy, or laying on the counselor’s couch for ten years because Bartholomew made fun of their haircut.
What you do see is the early church embracing unreal difficulties, persevering under insane trials, laughing their butts off when they should have been crying, glorifying God when most folks today would be cussin’ Him out, and radically growing both qualitatively and quantitatively, when most Christians would have laid down and died.
I’m here to tell you, ladies and gents, that the early church had a moxie that the 21st century squirrelly church desperately needs. It appears that a theology of internal and external pain put to the original Ichthus crowd helped them to sail through the slop life saddled them with, and they became better and not bitter because of it.
Imagine that . . . growth through pain.