God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God's chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We're sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Over the last few years I’ve begun to think that we make things way too difficult for ourselves. I have also begun to think that the easy Christianity that was sold me when I first started taking following Jesus seriously was a weak and sad version of Christianity.
How can it be both? How can I say we make things too difficult and at the same time too easy?
You see, the gospel I received was one that had a whole list of rules to follow that allowed me to show my faith to the world. There were ways of talking and things that were clear that were wrong for us to do. To follow Christ was to follow this particular set of rules and use these particular words. So, it was easy. Everything was black and white and straightforward. I could clearly determine who was good, bad, inside, and outside of the “faith.” It was so simple. Then I got the rules about theology and beliefs. Again, it was black and white and straightforward. If you believed these things then you were good. If you didn’t believe these things you were bad. Easy. So easy.
But, then as you go deeper with Jesus you begin to realize that there is so much more. There is a depth to his grace, mercy, and love that challenges all these “rules.” You read and study the gospels and find out that his deepest challenges were to the people who lived these black and white and straightforward lives. He was constantly calling them to something more. It turned out that the rules that were seemingly easy actually made things more difficult. Why? Because they created a dissonance between the actual teaching of Jesus and what we found in the Bible. So, the rules that were meant to be helpful hindered faith and growth.
There was a need to break free from the rules. They were meant to be good. But, they opened the door to a different deeper kind of sin-sickness that before the rules I barely knew existed in me.
When you stare long enough into the face of Jesus through the Gospels and the teachings of the New Testament you find out that God, “decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son.” This meant that my life was to conform more and more Jesus’ life. His life was one marked by love, mercy, kindness, compassion, empathy, and truth. Jesus said that his “yoke was easy and burden light.” How could that be? Following Jesus was hard. To be perfect is impossible.
Quite simply I had to learn the easy yoke is the one where I step back and actually believe that Jesus changes lives. Once we free ourselves of feeling the need to do the work that only Jesus does then we are free to love our neighbor and our enemy. We are free to point them to grace. No longer do we have to constrain ourselves to the rules of determining in and out, good and bad. Simply put, we point people to the lovingkindness of Jesus.
It gets really easy and gloriously hard when we rest in the statement, “Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us?”
My prayer for us is that we would learn what it is to have our lives conformed to Christ. I pray that we would move beyond and through the black and white and good and bad and in and out to the place where justice and grace meet. I pray that we would embrace to simple and hard way of following Christ that finds itself in the glorious mystery of grace, mercy, love, and truth.