Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pain Free Living?

And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

Summer is here, and that means I have some spare time to think. As well as thinking, I have been challenged to memorize Matthew 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount), which is a pretty crazy passage. Not only is it long (I heard once it takes 19 minutes to read), but it’s intense.

I have been stuck on the first part of the passage, the part where Jesus explains the type of people who will be blessed. They are the poor in spirit, those mourning, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted. If you really think about it, this is not the type of person you dream of being when you’re a little kid. You don’t hear the 7 year olds saying, “I want to be a mourner!”…just doesn’t happen.

I was thinking the other day that most of the time the message communicated to us is that God wants you to not go through hard times. I hear it in prayers, in songs, in sermons, and in conversations. We pray asking to avoid hard times. We pray that God would spare us from pain and suffering. Sermons are focused on how to live a better life. Most Pastors are focused on giving biblical advice on how to have a more successful and fulfilling life. We’re focused on how to free ourselves from the issues of life that drag us down. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no masochist, but maybe we’re missing the point. Maybe there is more to life than just looking to avoid trouble. Maybe there’s more to life than sunny skies and being debt free (not that those are bad things either).

I am in the middle of reading the book, “The Politics of Jesus” by John Howard Yoder. He made the point that Jesus actually lives out the Sermon on the Mount when he is crucified. For instance, he mentions that in Matthew 5:40 Jesus says if somebody taking your tunic to give also your cloak. When Jesus is being crucified, he points out that Matthew very purposefully mentions the fact that the soldiers were dividing his clothes. How should we take this: Jesus is actually living out the Sermon on the Mount! The cross is not just the story of God becoming man and then dying so we can be saved. The cross is the example for us to follow.

Paul picks up on this in the book of Philippians, chapter 2, verses 5-8. He says that we should have the same attitude as Jesus. Who though He was God, didn’t seem to care to hold on to this and he became like a slave. As a man, he again humbled himself and died. He didn’t just die he was crucified. So Paul wants us to see that Jesus doesn’t care much about taking the easy route, and we’re supposed to be like that.

I don’t know where to take this topic any further. I’ve already said I’m not a masochist, and I do not enjoy struggling through life, but I think that Jesus is trying to tell his followers something. I guess I’ve read over this text a dozen times in the last year or so, and it has struck a cord in my mind that maybe I’ve been thinking about life wrong. I’ve wanted to find the easiest, the most comfortable, or the least painful way–but maybe that’s not the way of Jesus.