There are many times in my life I have looked at certain words and teachings of Jesus and wondered, "Okay, did He really mean that? Is this to be taken literally or is this just a nice suggestion from God right now?"
I have found in my life it has been easy to downplay particular teachings of Jesus over other ones. I can be really good at picking and choosing the ones I "like" or "agree" with. I can be really good at making things black or white.
And if I don't "like" whatever it is, I just skim over that part of the Bible and move on my merry way.
But recently I had something happen that really gave me a reality check on the many difficult sayings of Jesus in the Bible.
My Dad works in downtown Detroit. On Friday's at lunchtime he and various coworkers go around the area of their building handing out food, water, and clothes to homeless people on the streets.
One Friday in November I had an open morning and was able to join the group that goes out. Knowing winter was coming, I wanted to go through my clothes and coats to see what I could bring to contribute to their ministry.
I had this beautiful, navy coat. You know the kind. It has pretty buttons, detachable hood, is very warm, and of course a fancy shmancy brand name. I received it as a Christmas gift from my parents two years ago.
However, since I have begun running and training regularly I have lost about 10-15 pounds and the coat didn't fit me properly. So in my closet it hung. With 6 other coats.
I knew this navy coat was something that was better spent on a woman who really needed it on the coming cold Detroit nights. So I set it aside with some other fleece jackets and shirts.
However, the Friday I was going to help I started second guessing myself.
"Well it was a gift from my parents...It is a really nice coat..." I started trying to convince myself I NEEDED this coat. That I had to have this coat or my life would be less meaningful without it. #pathetic
I ended up parting with the coat and I was glad I did.
But as I came home that afternoon and re-played the earlier internal dialogue I suddenly recalled a time in Scripture where John the Baptist calls some people out: "Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise" (Luke 3:11).
Okayyyyy it was Jesus' cousin and not actually Jesus who said that. But stick with me here.
My inability to part with a simple coat is such a powerful illustration of how tied I am to materialism; the power my stuff has over me. I like being comfortable in my faith sometimes.
I like my interpretation of the Bible best...the easy, peasy kind.
You know the kind that doesn't challenge you or make you feel uncomfortable.
But Jesus didn't come to make us feel comfortable.
He came to shake.us.up.
The more I thought about this coat, I began recalling all those difficult sayings of Jesus that I have tried to rationalize away or deflect any personal responsibility they have in my own life.
Forgiveness is never not an option. Not seven times but seventy times seven.
Adultery is not just committed with your body but in your mind, intentions, and thoughts.
Judge others harshly and you shall be judged on that same account you treated them.
Do not forget the poor, orphans, and widows. #refugees #Aleppo
Sell what you have, give to the poor, and your reward will be great in Heaven.
Do not store up treasures on Earth...because you cannot take it with you where you're going.
Did Jesus really mean that? Yes, I think He did.
I think the tough stuff He said to us we are meant to take and live seriously.
Sure we can argue back and forth on literal vs. figurative language in the Bible. But what I am starting to see more, is if Jesus said it then He really meant it. Now the way it is lived out in our lives will look different.
But if God said it, then we need to care and do something about it.
Faith without works is dead, it is meaningless.
James challenges believers when he writes: "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,' but you do not give them the necessities of the body what is it?"
What we believe as Christians makes a difference in the world to the extent those beliefs are translated into love in action. And sometimes in life I have really sucked at the love in action piece.
What the navy pea coat reminded me is how attached I still am (unknowingly at times) to the stuff and comfort of this world.
But deep down, I know I wasn't created for comfort. Rather, you and I all were created for greatness.
And we cannot become great disciples, great saints if we are shackled to comfort and mediocrity.
Slowly, I am learning that.
And this nice navy coat is just one more reminder how much I still have to learn...