When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."
They asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, `I am he!' and, `The time is near!' Do not go after them.
"When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately." Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."
A Reflection on Luke: 21:5-19
I just love these warm and fuzzy Gospel passages! “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name.” How do you read that and NOT think, “Yay, Christianity! Sign me up! That’s exactly what I need in my life right now: to be hated by all!” And yet even though this passage can easily make any number of us uncomfortable, it communicates a really important and vital truth: following Jesus in this life is going to cost you something. Being authentic is always going to cost you something. It wasn’t free for Jesus and it’s not free for us, but the only other alternative is to live an inauthentic life and though at times it seems so much easier—is that what we really want? I believe that Jesus is still calling us to follow him into living an authentic life.
For me, being authentic meant responding to Jesus’ call to accept the truth about my sexuality and to bring my whole self and not just parts of myself into my relationship with God and boy did that take me a long time to do! I wrestled with God in prayer for 16 years and it’s almost a miracle that I finally reached a place where I could accept myself as God accepted me and follow Jesus into that acceptance. Coming out was one of the most deeply spiritual experiences I’ve ever had. It was wonderfully liberating and for a while my soul was just bursting at the seams with God’s joy! And then I thought, huh, following Jesus into authenticity may mean that I’m going to lose some friendships and I did. It may mean that I’ll no longer be accepted at the church that I’ve labored in for 7 years and I wasn’t. It may very well mean that the journey I’m on is going to get a bit tougher and lonelier for a while and it did.
I remember coming out to an elder at my evangelical church at the time and watching this usually kind, mature and reasonable man get real nasty with me really quickly. He felt that I was no longer fit to serve in ministry in any capacity. I had known this man since I was a teenager but in just a moment he had dismissed me completely. I was no longer Kevin to him, just another gay person who had no business being involved in the life of the church. Following Jesus into authenticity meant leaving that church that had become a second home for me for 7 years behind. Following Jesus meant refusing to stay a part of a church where only certain people were welcome. Following Jesus meant steadfastly holding on to the conviction that God’s infinite love for me was not dependent upon my orientation and searching for a new community of faith that felt the same way. And it wasn’t a very easy process.
I’m sure we can all take a look at or lives and see that following Jesus has indeed cost us all something. Embracing the kind of radical welcome that Jesus practiced and that landed him on the cross isn’t always easy; it’s not always smiled upon by the people around us and they’re not always so quiet about it either. Whether it’s standing up for the rights of the poor and the marginalized or refusing to buy into the claims of a society obsessed with materialism that money is everything or simply deciding to hold onto common sense when so many are being swept up into extremes, Jesus was right. In being authentic you may lose those very dear to you, even your own mother and father. But Jesus also tells us to stand firm because in following Jesus we get to have Jesus and what more could we ask for than to have Jesus, his love, his grace, his peace, his presence? God with us! What more could we ever ask for?
In the NIV version of verse 19 of John chapter 21 Jesus says, “Stand firm and you will win life.” So stand firm as you seek to live out an authentic life. Stand firm as you extend to others the same radical welcome that Christ extends to you. Don’t back down. Don’t shrink back. Don’t remain silent when God urges you to speak. Now is not the time for letting go. Don’t walk away from the journey because it gets hard sometimes and it will get hard sometimes. Don’t settle for anything less than authentically following Jesus. Stand firm because having a life with Jesus is worth it.