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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Preconceptions Mislead

18-19When Jesus saw that a curious crowd was growing by the minute, he told his disciples to get him out of there to the other side of the lake. As they left, a religion scholar asked if he could go along. "I'll go with you, wherever," he said.  20Jesus was curt: "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best inns, you know."   21Another follower said, "Master, excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have my father's funeral to take care of."  22Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life."
(Matthew 8:18-22)

Jesus has just finished a night's work at the house of Peter - one of his disciples.  He has healed a leper and a Roman Centurion's servant on the way to Peter's house; cured Peter's mother of a fever that has left her ill and unable to do her work around the house; and then spent the night healing all kinds of people afflicted with physical disease and tormented within.  Now, in hopes of getting a little rest, he asks his disciples to set out across the lake.  I am not sure if Jesus ever enjoyed a lazy afternoon as a man growing up - we don't have much recorded about his R&R.  Yet, we get glimpses of Jesus' connection with is humanity when we see that he was tired, needing rest, feeling pushed by the crowds.

Two people approach Jesus before they can push off from shore - both certain that the life Jesus is leading is the life they want for themselves.  They have likely seen the various miracles of the past several hours and want "in on the action".  The first commits to go "wherever you go" - then almost as quickly pulls back when he discovers that he will be "roughing it".  There are a lot of us Christians that want the "5-star" experience when it comes to following Jesus.  If we are presented with anything less, we pull back and reconsider.

The other man was really intent on following Jesus, but he had some "additional stuff" that he had to attend to before he wanted to "join up" with the disciples.  Isn't this so typical of us?  We have so many preconceived ideas of what is important in our lives - neglecting the one thing that is absolutely the most important!  

In psychological terms, we might call this confirmation bias - we favor any perception that confirms what we believe to be true, often neglecting to see other truths in the process.  These guys did not think about the fact that there might be a cross at the end of the road for Jesus - they just wanted in on the "good stuff" of the here and now.  They did not see the negativity of the opponents of Jesus - only the throngs of the crowds.

We might commit - but do we take the time to really understand that commitment means more than "pledging" our hearts?  It means that we actually give our hearts, souls, and bodies to the work of following Jesus.  Sometimes that means we have smooth sailing - other times, we face conflicts, come upon difficult relationship issues, and get involved in circumstances we would have avoided if we'd really thought twice.  

When we are only following our "preconceived" ideas about what life with Christ should be like, we may want to "bail" when the rubber meets the road.  Whenever we approach God with any commitment of our time, talents, or treasures (including our heart), we need to be honest with him.  He'd rather have us admit our "heart struggle" with what he asks us to do than to be "covering it up" under a facade of religious affirmation.  

We all have these "heart struggles" when it comes to being totally obedient to what God asks of us.  In admitting our struggles, we can tap into God's strength to move beyond them into the place of service he has for us.  No good comes out of believing only the best and refusing to see that there will be bumps along the way.  

This is a day-to-day walk - complete with its ups and downs.  It has its moments of "5-star" ecstasy - but it also has its moments of "roughing it".  God uses both to build us, encourage us, and to help us to grow, softening us where we are hard, and shaving off the rough edges that give us cause for concern.