Today I ran across an exchange between Jesus and his follower and friend, Peter. In John 6, Jesus teaches some difficult things, including the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Some in the crowd say, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Then we read: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
Jesus said many hard things. Some are difficult concepts to grasp. Take these for example:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
Other sayings are hard not because we don’t understand, but because we do. The demands they place on us seem too great. Take, for instance, the following:
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ?” (Matthew 5:43).
“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).
Many people believe Christianity is for the weak-minded or for those needing an emotional crutch. What they don’t understand is those who bear the name Christian in its truest sense are people who have made a costly choice. Flannery O’Connor wrote, “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course, it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe.”
So I ask you, Dr. Agnostic and Professor Skeptic, to consider the Christian faculty and students in your classes and departments. Think of them not as those who have been duped by religion, but rather as those who have made great sacrifice in pursuit of truth. And show them a little respect, because I bet they are praying for you, and you know, they probably love you, too.
By the way, after many of his followers left, Jesus turned to his chosen 12 and asked if they, too, were going to leave. Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
I end with the words of a song from my youth, “You know by now why the chosen are few, it’s harder to believe than not to … I believe.”
Jeremy Hamilton is on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. You may e-mail him at [email protected]