By Jim Herrington
Recently I had a lengthy breakfast conversation with a friend. This man is a successful executive leader in the city. Here is what he said to me. “I was given a faith by my parents that is now sustained by the congregation I attend. When the fluff is cut away, at the heart of what I embraced was a kind of quid pro quo with Jesus. I would be a good man – pray, study my Bible, serve, and give. In return, Jesus would give me the good life. I don’t mean that he would make me rich or famous. But, if I kept up my part of the bargain, my life would become increasingly easier, my kids would turn out well, I would gain some level of status and esteem from my peers, and though life would have its challenges, Jesus would give me a life of growing ease and convenience.”
This friend then went on to describe in detail his great disappointment in the choices and challenges that his young adult son was facing. He described the suffering that his son was going through, in part, because of that son’s choices. He was on the verge of tears as he described the great burden that he and his wife were carrying out of their love for their son. And finally he got really transparent and told me how angry he was at God for not keeping His part of the bargain.
He went on to say, “If there is no personal benefit in following Jesus – if I am going to suffer and struggle whether I am a Christian, a Buddhist, or an atheist, then why follow Jesus? Where is the Good News in that?”
We spent a long time in this conversation. I walked away keenly aware that the message of Jesus has been so deeply conformed to the patterns of this world, that it has lost its power and is no longer Good News. And I heard Romans 12:1-2 ringing in my ears. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Where did the gospel of ease and convenience come from? How did it make its way into our congregations? What happened to strong men and women of God who sacrificed their lives and fortunes for the common good? What happened to put on the whole amour of God, take up your cross every day, and the road is narrow and few are they who enter in?
Until we can hear and act on Jesus’ call to a fellowship of suffering, transformation will not occur… for us as individuals or for the communities of our city. Lord, help us to hear the gospel anew – for the Good News that it is.