Failing Followers: rejecting the hard truths {Blogging through the Bible} | The Speckled Goat: Failing Followers: rejecting the hard truths {Blogging through the Bible}


Failing Followers: rejecting the hard truths {Blogging through the Bible}

This past Fall, I sat in our little sterile hospital room in the NICU. I'd just woken up from a nap on the makeshift couch-bed that had been my sleeping spot for more than a month, and my little guy snoozed peacefully in his crib, monitors quiet and his little heart rate bouncing happily on the screen.

It had been a long, long journey. I was worn out, tired from waking up every three hours at feeding times, tired because my body was recovering from surgery, tired because even with all the monitors and nurses, I was terrified that my baby would stop breathing, tired because periodic breathing sucks. The night before had been particularly rough- for some reason my poor tiny baby had been throwing up his feedings, spectacular enormous spit ups that didn't seem normal to me at all, and I was worried. I'd changed his little outfit three times overnight because he just kept soaking it.

My phone rang- it was my husband. I answered the call and relished the sound of his voice- I was tired from missing him, too.

"I have some sad news," he said, and I heard my big strong husband's voice catch a little. "Bear died."

And as the words sank in, I started to cry. My big ole lovable slobbery thing had only been our dog for two years, and now he was gone. He'd been my friend through infertility, had helped keep me moving and going on walks when I didn't feel like it, and he'd brightened my days with his goofy doggy smile every morning.

And as my husband told me about finding him peaceful and already gone, his face to the sunrise, I didn't want to believe it. I didn't want to believe that in the hardest season of my life, God would take a friend of mine. I didn't want to believe that what my husband was saying was true, and that after more than a month of not being home, of not getting to take him on walks and not getting to pet his big floppy ears, I wasn't going to get to say goodbye.

I didn't want to hear it.

I wanted so badly to reject the hard truth... but just because it was hard didn't mean it wasn't true.

"[Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him." -Mark 9:31-32

The Gospel Mark first tells us about lots and lots of Jesus's miracles... and Jesus starts talking about what's to come.

I wonder if he started talking about the torture and death that he was going to endure because he wanted to prepare his disciples. Because he didn't want them to think it was outside of the plan. Or maybe Jesus predicted his death to bring God more glory in fulfilling that prediction. Maybe Jesus was weeding out the true followers from the gawking celebrity-crazed fans. We don't really know the motivation behind these grim conversations. I suspect there were several purposes to Jesus's clearly morbid teachings.

But the disciples really, really didn't like it.

Peter even has the audacity to pull Jesus aside and "rebuke" him. I wonder what Peter said, exactly.

"You're bumming everyone out."
"You shouldn't talk like that."
"Jesus, I think you might be depressed. Maybe you should talk to a professional."
"You're worrying about things that aren't going to happen."
"Look, nobody wants to hear this. Go back to the 'blessed are the poor in spirit' stuff."

We don't know what Peter said, but I think we can assume the biggest reasons why he told Jesus to knock off the death talk.

He didn't understand


It didn't fit his expectations

In the book of Mark, the disciples are almost comically bad at understanding what's going on.

Jesus heals so many people and then feeds the 5000, and but in the next passage, the disciples are shocked when he walks on water. As the word says, "for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened." They just don't get it.

And a result of their lack of understanding is that they balk against Jesus not fulfilling their expectations. They really truly expected Jesus to start a political rebellion, to overthrow Rome. But Jesus was completely and totally not what they expected-- and despite the fact that he showed them this over and over again, they still just didn't understand. They're failing followers because they don't want to believe the hard truths that Jesus was living out plainly in front of them.

We have the whole story in our hands, so we kind of think the disciples are morons. At least, I do. How do they not get it?

But honestly, we do the same thing.

Okay, so we don't have Jesus in the flesh right in front of us, but we do have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. And even so, we reject the hard truths of the Word.

We are so, so good at trying to tell the Bible to hush up, already. 

We Find an Interpretation that Makes us More Comfortable

The Bible says something hard and we don't understand, so we try to change the meaning to make it less harsh.

Women submitting to their husbands? Seems outdated... and besides, the world is all about equality now. So... submission doesn't mean actually submitting. It means occasionally allowing a husband to lead. When we feel like it. If he's a respectable guy.

There's only one way to heaven? Doesn't that seem kind of... exclusive? Jesus wants all of us to go to heaven, so he can't really mean what he said with the whole "No one comes to the Father except through me" stuff. Let's say there are many paths to God... or that no one religion has it right and we all worship the same God anyway, so we're all going to heaven.

We don't understand, so we try to "fix" the Word of God so we can understand better.

We Let our Expectations Steer our Understanding

We have a certain idea about God in our minds, and we don't know what to do when the word of God paints a different picture.

Like in the Old Testament, when God tells the Israelites to slaughter every single person in the land of Canaan. No mercy. How does that fit with the God of love? Or when that priest touches the Ark of the Covenant to keep it from falling, and he's immediately struck dead. How do we reconcile that with a forgiving God who sees the heart of man?

If we have a view of a loving, open-armed God, then how could He condemn anyone to Hell?

The Bible says that sexual impurity and homosexuality is wrong. But if God is love, then all love (even homosexuality, incest, extra-marital relationships) are permissible to God, right? Love is love. So the Bible must be wrong. Or maybe it's just not relevant in that specific area, anymore.

We can't reconcile the God we want with the God of the Bible.

The Bible doesn't fit our expectations, so we discount its authority.

So what do we do?

Should we twist the Bible so it fits better? To make it more palatable, easier to swallow?  Do we take Jesus aside and rebuke him? 

"But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. 'Get behind me, Satan!' he said. 'You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'"-Mark 9:33

Get behind me, Satan!

What an incredibly harsh response Jesus gives! I think it may be one of the most wounding statements Jesus would ever say to Peter. Jesus wasn't mincing words, here.

But as I think about it, it totally makes sense. Peter was questioning Jesus's authority, doubting that he was speaking the truth. Did God really intend for His Son to suffer and die? Was that really what God was saying?

In the Garden, Satan puts doubt and temptation into Eve's mind by asking that same question-- "Did God really say...?"

And oh, followers of Jesus, aren't we in the exact same predicament? 

Did God really say...?

Did God really say that submission in marriage is important? Did God really say that holiness matters? Does God honestly ask us to tithe? Did God really say that homosexuality and extramarital sex are wrong? Did God really say that Jesus is the only way to heaven?

Did God say it? 

When we reject the truth found in the Bible, even when the truth that's hard to swallow, don't we have the same heart attitude as Peter?

And Jesus had no soft fluffy words for one who rejects the hard truths that are plain to see, for us- that are plainly written and God has explicitly told us with His own Word!

But in all honesty, I still want the Bible to fit what I want it to say. I want the God that I want, not always the God Who Is. I want to reject the hard truths about sin and holiness and Hell and just focus on the love. We know God is love, so shouldn't God be always totally loving?

But sometimes love looks a lot different than we think it should look.

If Christianity tells us anything, it's that sometimes love looks like a man beaten beyond recognition, dying on a cross. 

What about you?

Is the Bible sometimes really hard to swallow? Do you try to cut God down to a comfortable size in your life? Does culture dictate your view of love? Do you struggle with not understanding why God says what He says (I know I do)? Are you tired of feeling like you're fighting a losing battle against the world, tired of being called names and being seen as a judgmental hypocrite, because the Bible seems so outdated and so unloving?

We cannot take the Bible and try to make it measure up to our standards. We have to take our standards and make them conform to the Bible. It's incredibly hard. It takes a lot of study and prayer and reading and thinking (and thinking is exhausting, especially with a baby in the house!) and lots and lots of discernment.

Holding firm to the hard truths is not going to make us popular (Jesus said so). It's not going to be easy. There's a tension there. But in a world of easy cushy psuedo-Christianity, we need to start denying ourselves lives of comfort.

Take up your cross. Bear under the weight of whatever comes.

And so I'm asking God to take my fumbling and my failure and teach me to follow better. To believe the Bible, hold true to it's authority, even when it's not easy to swallow. I'm asking that He would help me seek truth, even hard truth, and when I find it, to hold on tight. Because I don't want to live in denial and reject the truth that sets me free.

...   ...   ...

This post is part of the Blogging through the Bible link up!

Members of my Blogging through the Bible group have each chosen a book of the Bible to study and write about! This is a fun opportunity to get to know more Christian bloggers, and to dig deeper with them into God's Word!

Please stop by some of these blogs to read what they have to share today!

(If you're interested in joining in on the link up, I encourage you to join the Facebook Group!)

Related Posts:

failing followers devotion messy discipleship gospel of mark  gospel of mark pressure popularity and human approval devotion  god cares and is powerful mark gospel devotion 
jesus is the solution to the hurt of the world mark gospel devotion feeding the five thousand  focusing on the wrong things leads us to miss the miracle mark gospel devotion

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  1. LOVE this post, friend! And you are so right about trying to make scripture say the things we WANT it to say. I want to be believing the TRUTH though, not just the parts I like!

  2. Frequently we find the truth to be a hair shirt and very uncomfortable. I know God means what He says, but applying it in every day life is where the rock and hard place live. I know God is against homosexuality, but my nephew and my cousin both are. So what I am supposed to do? Do I tell them how wrong they are for living that life style? My nephew knows...he tormented himself almost to the point of suicide before he told our family that he was homosexual. He knew it was against what he was taught at church and at home and was fully prepared for all of us to shun him. We love him, we pray for him, beyond that, what can I do? Hate the sin, love the sinner, right? The interesting thing is that most of the extended family figured it out WAY before he said anything. Why are some people homosexual? Is it a choice that they make? Who would be so crazy as to make that choice? So many questions that I can't find the answers for and I'll have to wait and ask when I go home. Do you have any answers for me? Also, could you ask your group what is the purpose of baptism in it necessary for salvation? I have been doing a study on it with a pastor and his wife. We are on opposite sides of the debate and I'm interested to find out what other Christians believe, why they believe it and if they can back it up with scripture! I enjoy reading your posts and the depth you go into! Thank you for taking the time to first study and then share with us.

    1. What a great discussion!

      And oh, the homosexuality issue is so, so hard. I'll be the first to say that I don't have all the answers on that- or even some of them. But I do know that the Bible says it's a sin. How we as Christians respond to the sinner (knowing full well that we're sinners just as much as they are!) is a challenge I think we have to follow Jesus's lead on-- love love and more love.

      I'd really enjoy having a more in depth conversation with you about this-- would you email me? :)

  3. My bible reading today was Matthew 28:18. Jesus said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." And directs to make disciples of men. Nothing is more powerful than God and can completely take comfort in that! I try my best, in God's strength, to be fruit of the Spirit when facing the challenges of our broken world. Great teachings here! Thank you!