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It is Easter time. Easter, as a Christian, is often about sharing the incredible life and victory gained through Jesus death and that invitation to those who do not know Jesus personally and experimentally (Hebr. 3 in AMP) yet. And though I often think about his victory and the abundant life he wants to offer each and everyone of us, this year I have pondered the cost of following Jesus that comes along the abundant life. Failure and rejection at first glance seem to have nothing in common with Easter from a charismatic point of view.
But after some research and contemplation I realised there is something to be said about it all.
There is a real cost to knowing Jesus. It is nothing compared to the gain, especially in the long run. However, it costs, especially in the short term. When you witness metal in bodies dissolving, hearts being made whole, minds getting free, addictions being broken, marriages healed, pain instantly leave, people’s lives turning around for their benefit, or you are just having a regular awesome encounter with God yourself … you know God is just absolutely getting what he paid for… Those are awesome moments and they make everything worth it. Really!!
But this blog post is not about that.
This blog is about the short term yet actual reality of risking something, only to be found wanting, loving others and being rejected and pouring oneself out only to be judged.
I have heard about the dark season of the soul from others who pursued Jesus and it is not like I have never experienced rejection, failure or the judgement from others ever before. But often it was caused by my own naivety, my selfishness, my immaturity and other things or that of others. In hindsight I could always look and learn something from it and admit my own fault or theirs and thereby move on.
It is a different tale all together when it is God, who is perfect and makes no mistake, being the one who is leading us into the dark night of the soul. When he is asking us to love others knowing they will reject us, knowing they will judge, knowing they will misunderstand. Because, HE doesn’t need our forgiveness. And why would a loving God lead me in ways that would test my love towards Him anyway?! But that’s the thing: Following Jesus and wanting to become one with Him, wanting to be HIS extension to others comes at a cost.
Love is like that. True love pours itself out again and again and again and again because Love loves. It cannot help itself. It gives us plenty of chances and many opportunities to be convinced. Love wants to prove itself. Because love is not just a theoretical measure. It is felt and must be experienced in truth and in deed. It gives itself and is reckless in the pursuit of our hearts. God is love. And so sometimes, because we have been burned, disappointed and even hardened to true love we reject it at first and maybe a second or third time. Maybe a thousand times or more. But Love wins eventually.
In the meantime however, … at times, … in the short term, love might not be received at all.
And that is what I am thinking about this Easter. About the love rejected, misunderstood and judged. Love that ultimately was put to death, though completely innocent.
And strangely I find comfort in that. When Jesus went through the darkest time of his life, it was hard. So hard he sweated blood and tears. He was abandoned by those closest to Him and even God, his father, who had sent him in the first place. Knowing full well it would end in the painful and emotionally taxing mistreatment, abuse and ultimately death.
I am reminded that following Jesus and obedience to him is about love not necessarily success and sometimes it is not as sexy or popular as telling the heroic stories of love received.
And love is about seeing the one. Not just the masses. And giving opportunity to every ‘one’ to experience love and to reject it too.
It wouldn’t be love in the first place if it would not have the option of rejection, would it?!
The bible says Jesus gave up his life. It wasn’t taken from him. When we read the bible carefully, we read that he was a willing participant in this unfair scenario we call now Good Friday. He was powerfully loving others even unto death. Because he knew his death would be the measure it took for all to be free, and maybe some needed to see how far he was actually willing to go… I don’t know!
But he did go all the way, for the joy set before Him. The joy of freeing others through his sacrifice. The joy of being resurrected. The joy of returning victorious over death back to heaven. The joy of pouring out the Holy Spirit on all people. And the joy of people turning to Him. The joy of YOU and me and Him together. That joy allowed him to pass through that dark season.
But it cost Him. And for a moment it looked like failure. It looked like defeat. It was painful, toxic, unfair, unbearable.
It was not sexy, popular, cool nor successful by any standard of society.
Sometimes churches, including me, have clothed obedience to Jesus in success, health, riches and even fame. When we preach obedience to Jesus like that, without the cost, it makes failing and the dark seasons so difficult, because we might feel like that was not part of the obedience package! Because like I said in my last blog, obedience does not always look like success. Sometimes it looks like the complete opposite. And my rhetorical question looking past Easter into the rest of my life is: Will I continue to be a willing participant in HIS adventure to love mankind back to Himself? Will I continue and push past the seasons of rejection and failure and misunderstanding and see the joy before me?
I know I am giving my full yes to Him, for the joy that he set before me and because he has marked my heart with this reckless, hate quenching, overflowing love. Oh, how he loves us and how we need to experience his love over and over and over again.
Christianity is about love first. It is amazing when it overlaps with success but let’s keep it real... Sometimes it doesn’t. For many persecuted Christians around the world it never does. And maybe, like me, you find encouragement from the lives of those Syrian Christians killed for their faith on that dreadful day at the beach. They knew love and that love was worth it all.
Jesus is alive and well. And we will be too.
Have a ‘Good Friday’ and happy Easter 🙂