If you call someone and ask them to meet you at 5:00 AM to pray, they are likely to think you're crazy. If you call the same person and ask them to meet you at the gym, that would be normal. If you were to move across the country to plant a church in a city you've never been, your family would probably raise their eyebrows. But if you made the same decision, but instead in order to go to college or for a job, most would be joyful for your decision.
The standard of how far is far enough moves depending on what we're talking about. In the current economic climate, uprooting your family for a job isn't unreasonable. But to uproot your family and serve in the Third World would seem strange. If you ask a stranger in the grocery store parking lot about their new car, it's not at all awkward. But stop that same person in the parking lot and ask them about Jesus and expect a cold response. It might be ok to your friends if you tell them you can't stay out as late Saturday night because you have church that morning. Unless the big game is on early and you'd miss it for church.
So how far would you go to follow Jesus?
The name Aron Ralston may not be familiar, but I'm sure you've heard his story. He is the hiker and climber whose arm got stuck behind a rock and had to cut it off in order to survive. He is the subject of the movie 127 Hours. Before the book and the movie, I saw his story on the Today Show. My eyes could have fallen out of my head they were open so wide as I heard his story of survival. In a nutshell: he went hiking, didn't tell anyone where he was going, and while working through a crevice a boulder dislodged and rolled over his arm trapping him. After five days, delirious and out of water, he amputated his arm with a dull knife from his multi-tool. Let me say that again so it can sink in, he cut off his arm with a dull knife.
As dramatic as that sounds, the simple fact of the matter is if he hadn't, he would not have survived. As if that weren't enough, he then had to repel down a 65 foot rock face, and hike 8 miles back to his truck. All while dehydrated and bleeding to death. He mentioned in one interview, "I had amputated my arm within minutes of when they had found the truck. If I hadn't chopped off my arm they would have found me but I would have been dead. It would have been days later. Had I chopped off my arm earlier, then the helicopter wouldn't have been there and I would have bled to death." Impeccable timing, or something more divine?
The first reaction to that story is to put yourself in his shoes and ask yourself if you could have done the same thing. It is hard to imagine myself, stuck like that in the same spot, breaking my arm in order to get through the bone and having to sever nerves in order to pull myself away. In fact, even typing this, I shudder. But how far would you go to survive?
Now how do we make the leap from this true story to our pursuit of Jesus? Again I ask, how far would you go to survive? Jesus relates in a parable, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:44-46)
The man sold all he had with joy because he knew what he was getting was worth so much more. The life and death implication may not be obvious, so let me add, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.'"(Matthew 16:24-25, emphasis added)
Following Jesus is a matter of life and death. So if you are trapped in your sin, how far would you go? To further drive the point, "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." (Matthew 5:30, emphasis added)
So one last time, how far would you go?
This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.