There are two things I always attempt to talk people out of. One is marriage. Don’t get me wrong! I believe in Marriage, and everything it stands for. I just don’t think people really understand what they’re jumping in to when they say “I’m in love, I want to get married.” Part of the reason for this is that I see so many married couples who come in to my office, damaged and broken. They say the seek counseling, but so often they want to be affirmed that their position is right, and the spouses is wrong. It is with great sadness that I say the majority of people who walk in to my office like this rarely walk back out changed.
That is why when I marry a couple, it is usually after 3-6 sessions of counseling, in which we break down the fairy tale, and get in to the reality of Marriage. Marriage is something so many of us walk in to blind. We see our parents, Disney movies, love stories, love songs, everything surrounding the subject of love and marriage, and we like the idea of love, but don’t want the work and heartache it takes to get there. The feeling is often so much better than the reality. But those of us who’ve been hurt in love know the harsh truth: love is not a feeling, it’s a choice. The Knight’s Shining Armor has a cracks in it, and the perfect princess has her flaws.
We have to accept the fact that love is a choice we must willingly make, not a feeling we have. I remember the time I really knew that Michaelene was the one for me: it was the first Christmas after we started dating, and I had just given her a promise ring; to which she responded by throwing up all over the place. I remember holding her hair, cleaning up her house (we didn’t move in together until the day we were married!), and taking care of her as she heaved all night and saying to myself”She’s the one I’m going to spend the rest of my life with!” It has not been easy. We’ve been married 7 years, and have had our share of ups and downs, fights, and nights where I exiled myself to the couch. I don’t have a perfect marriage. I’m not a perfect husband, she’s not a perfect wife. The thing is, we choose to love each other through our flaws.
Which leads me to the second thing I try and talk people out of: baptism. It is not a feeling or emotion that should lead us to baptism, no more than a feeling or emotion should lead us to marriage. It should be a choice. It is hard to follow Jesus. We stumble and fall, we face ridicule from those outside who want to see us fall, and even, sometimes, those inside who hate to see us fall, and act like they have not fallen. Following Christ is messy. You see, we’re born in to a world occupied by the enemy of God.
We are not born inherently good. I’ve watched all three of my boys grow up, and from an early age, they all want to test the boundaries. From the earliest age, they do wrong, and make bad choices, knowing what my rules are, knowing daddy and mommy have said “no” and yet they challenge us anyway. We are born in to a world mired in rebellion. God made us good in the beginning, but because we had freewill, we chose to go our own way, and thus broke our perfection and the perfect world God had designed. We live, basically, in Enemy Occupied territory, and if we choose not to follow Christ, are a part of the enemy’s plans and movements. As C.S. Lewis said (I paraphrase), God is holding off the invasion in the hope of recruiting every last soul possible into the underground. When he comes back, it is all finished. It will be, according to Lewis, the most indescribably beautiful, or unspeakably horrible thing that will ever happen. But no where, in signing up for Jesus’ underground, are we promised safety.
Jesus, who had no home for at least the three years of his ministry, who was constantly subject to scrutiny and ridicule from the religious elite, who was plotted against, attempted to be seized and killed 10 times, and finally brutally beaten and nailed to a tree. Does that sound safe to you? 11 of the 12 apostles were executed. Does that sound safe? From the beginning of the movement, Christians have been burned alive, fed to lions, executed and tortured in inhumane ways, ostracized, politicized, polarized, removed from families, socially outcast, and all other sorts of things we don’t like to, from the comfort of our pews, think about. I’ve had many people come to me in love with the idea of Jesus, but not willing to see what it takes to follow Him. They want the feeling, and not the following. It’s not a safe resistance movement. We live in Enemy held territory, we’re going to fall under attack for saying yes.
This week alone, I have had my heart ripped from my chest (not physically), and have lost sleep over things that occur within and outside of the church. I’ve had people tell me terrible things about those I’m closest to, and have had a few people say things to my face about me and this church that were wounding. I’ve seen every ministry and every level of this church attacked over and over again…and that is just THIS WEEK. I’m weary and tired, hurt and wounded. I’m heartbroken. But I know it’s a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ! As you’re reading this, if Christianity isn’t what you’d thought it would be after you gave your life to Christ, what did you respect? Look at the founder to see what you have to look forward to. It’s not for the weak of heart, not for those out for a good feeling. It’s heartbreaking, it’s bone crushing, but, if done right, all worth it.
Matthew 7:15-29 ESV
A Tree and Its Fruit
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
I Never Knew You
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Build Your House on the Rock
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
The Authority of Jesus
28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.