Another reason I use an ellipsis instead of a period, is because my experience is in this culture. I have only read about following Jesus in other cultures; I have not experienced it. So allow me to cut to the chase again, phrased a bit differently, following Jesus is harder in our culture than in other cultures…
I have pondered this statement for a while for a variety of reasons. One reason is that it is one thing to ponder something, but it is another to put it out there for consumption. Quite often in my mind I think if my life does not reflect what I put out there, then what is my basis for making the statement? In other words; “practice what you preach”.
Granted, I am all for practicing what I preach. Yet we need to understand something; if someone highlights an issue or a problem, and for some reason their life does not match up to “the solution,” this does not mean the issue or problem is false or irrelevant. E.g., around 26,000 children will die today (and tomorrow, and the next day) from a lack of food or some other poverty-related issue. However, just because I am going to likely eat more than the bare minimum needed for survival on most days, and drive a car rather than walk to work, does not negate the reality that 26,000 children are going to die of preventable causes. In other words, just because I have not reduced the “stuff” in my life to what seems to be drastic measures (by our standards), this does not negate the truth of poverty devouring life on this earth. Truthfully, I think far too many Christians play the “Well yeah, but what are you doing about it?” card in order to somehow justify their lack of doing anything. Let us call that for what it is – sin.
OK, now back to why I am convinced it is harder to follow Jesus here than in other cultures. Simply stated, it is easy to know following Jesus is costly if a gun is pointed to your head for your professed belief (or a machete is being repeatedly lowered on your leg, or your house is being bombed, or your children are being targeted for death because the persecutors know they can no longer keep you silent by threatening merely your life), as you are given an option to repent. On the other hand, it is not so easy to tell following Jesus is costly when we are faced with upgrading to a nicer automobile (or home, or cable package, or brand of clothes) when what we have is honestly, and quite often, more than enough.
On one hand, the above examples of “it is easy to tell” and “it is not so easy to tell” can easily be expounded. Yet on the other hand, we must not be fooled into thinking this applies only in the realm of materialism. However we cannot deny Jesus bluntly states “the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mk4:19). No wonder Jesus told a guy to sell all he had and give it to the poor (Mk10:21).
If you are still reading, let me briefly expand this difficulty in following Jesus in our culture beyond the realm of materialism. For example, in a culture where your very life depends on unity and harmony in the body it is likely “easier” to reconcile and forgive an offense. Yet in our culture, where one can just leave one church and go to the next, or choose not to talk and reconcile with someone because the stakes for unity and harmony do not seem so obvious, well then forgiveness and reconciliation are easily viewed as an option. Similarly, it is perhaps “easier” to be blinded to the reality of how our actions impact others here as well. Yet I recall Paul saying something about protecting the Unity the Spirit has gifted to The Church (Eph4:3), and Jesus saying the world will know we are His disciples by how we love one another (Jn13:34-35; cf. Jn17:20-23). Those do not sound like optional aspects of following Jesus. Indeed, they are not; we are only deceived into thinking they are. Let us again call that for what it is – sin.
We live in a culture that teaches us to be self-centered, not self-denying. We live in a culture that teaches us to be independent, not dependent on God for everything. We live in a culture that teaches us things are disposable, not a resource to be leveraged for the Kingdom. We live in a culture that tells us relationships are replaceable, not valuable and worth fighting to preserve. We live in a culture that tells us unity is important so long as it does not cost us anything, not to go to extreme measures to protect it. We live in a culture that teaches us to consume will bring ultimate happiness and fulfillment, not that it leads to addiction and emptiness. We live in a culture that teaches us so many things contrary to God’s desires are acceptable, the norm, or just the way our culture is so we may as well accept it.
I think many people seeking to follow Jesus struggle with things in this post…yet sadly I think many have been placated into at least a partial resignation to the way things are. Yeah, it is harder to follow Jesus here than in other cultures, of this I am more convinced…
So, I turn to God in prayer; thankful for His grace...yet expressing my desire to respond to It more fully. I realize this is a battle I cannot win on my own; of that I am convinced.