Following Jesus is NOT a safe thing. Not even close.
Over and over in Scripture, we are shown through illustration and principle that following Jesus will enable us to enjoy our God but will also put us in opposition with many of our peers and our culture.
Some followers of Jesus get persecuted and killed. It seems as if we are hearing more about Christian persecution these days. (Yeah, just try to tell THEM that following Jesus is the safest thing they could do.)
We know this from our own experience, too. Just ask any child who attends school and wants to follow Jesus. Sure, they can find Christian friends but there is an invisible line that they had better not cross. If they cross that line and express too much passion in their pursuit of holiness, even their ‘Christian’ friends will ostracize them.
It’s the same way in our workplaces. It’s even the same way at church. Satisfy yourself in being a nominal Christian – don’t get too excited about it – and everything is ok. But, if you begin making it clear that even the small sins bother you, you’ll find the number of peers who associate with you getting smaller and smaller. Try bringing God’s Word into ordinary conversations on a regular basis and you’ll find the same results. Speak of how many popular movies are offensive to a Holy God, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
If our safety and affirmation by others is our highest priority, we won’t be able to truly follow Jesus with our whole heart. However, if our love for our God and His truth and our love for others (the two greatest commands – Matthew 22:34-40) is what primarily drives us, then we may not be safe and our peer group may be small but we’ll see God smiling at us.
In my Bible reading this morning, I was reading through Jeremiah 20. In it, Jeremiah was beaten and jailed for sharing God’s Word and calling people to repent and live according to God’s standard. He talked to God and essentially said, “Wow. Wasn’t I the fool! I thought following You would be safe. But, the more I speak Your Word, the deeper my trouble gets!”
Yet, it is in this context that he utters a very, very powerful statement:
Jeremiah 20:9 (New Living Translation)
“But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!”
God’s Word is the standard for us. It tells us what to believe and it tells us how we are to act. It tells us what sort of behavior God is free to bless and what God must punish. It also tells us that God’s heart is one that longs for people to live in His favor and enjoy Him.
Yet, when we fall into sin, God’s Word is not pleasant. It convicts us. It nails us. It shows that we are wrong and need to make adjustments. It uses the word ‘repent’ over and over and over. And not one likes that!
But, we MUST be people of the Word. We must read it, strive to live by it and share it with others.
So, are you looking for a safe life? Are you paralyzed with the desire to be liked and affirmed by as many people as possible? Well, following Jesus isn’t really for you then, my friend.
But, if you are serious about following Jesus, while it isn’t safe and while you may find that other ‘Christians’ will reject you, you’ll see that God is smiling at you. But, and this is exciting(!), one day you’ll see Jesus look you in the eye, raise His hands to applaud your entrance into Heaven and hear Him say, “Well done! Well done!” (Matthew 25:23)
That’s the ultimate illustration of delayed gratification!