34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Mark 8: 34-37
I’ve noticed a new thing in my life that I’m not too proud of: I’ve started apologizing because I call myself a Christian.
You see, the Christian church, Christian leaders, and other people who call themselves Christian have been in the news a whole lot recently. And it hasn’t been good news. In fact its been really bad news. Christian churches systematically abusing children and young people; and even adults who identify as being LGBTQ+. Christian leaders bilking people out of money or sexually assaulting vulnerable people in the community they are supposed to serve. People who call themselves Christian citing ‘personal freedom’ as the most important way they make their choices about vaccinations or public health orders.
These stories continue to shock me and scare me. And I wonder what happened that I think so vastly differently about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
And so I end up wincing and apologizing. “Yes, I’m a Christian, but I’m not _________(fill in the blank with your one adjective. My personal favourite is “I’m not a bigot”)”.
When I read about Jesus in our Bible, I read things like “the last shall be first”, or “neither do I condemn you”, and today’s quote “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
You see, the Jesus that has called my heart and soul into God’s service in this world also tells me that worshiping personal freedom over the well-being of the community is idolatry, and that being a Christian means, well, in a nutshell, that its not about me. In fact, its never about me. Its about the great big beautiful ‘us’ ; the world that Jesus tells us God loves in John 3:16. The world that is not condemned or judged for anything. The world is Loved.
And we are called to be this Love now.
This is a hard choice. Its particularly hard in the rhetoric of our world right now where personal freedom and the individual gain is seen as the most important value that we can have. It’s a hard choice because we are continually bombarded by messages that value is tied to our finances, or our ability to make privileged choices.
Our scriptures call this idolatry. Idolatry of the self. And from what I can tell, Christians call idolatry sinful.
And that’s where we lose our souls, isn’t it.
So, my dear Bethel friends, what can I say, but “Stay the Course”. I’m thinking its time our Christian voices get heard more than the other ones that make us all wince and apologize. Our Christian voices; because I know that all of you are all about loving and serving others, and loving and serving God in this way.
Blessings today, and Remember you are Loved.