I want to tell you about when Jesus entered a town and told his disciples to;…
keep a low profile so as to not draw any attention to themselves,…
that it would be best if they operated in the dark so as to not invite adversity…
don’t say anything controversial that might cause strife among family or friends,…
if they shared any wisdom from him;..to whisper it to only those who can trusted,…
and most of all, whatever they do, he said to be sure to remain safe at all costs;…
don’t take any unnecessary risks that might cause you to be harmed or lose your life.
Do you recall any of that?
I hope not because none of it ever happened.
Its obviously a made up story I concocted to show what Jesus did not do or say.
You know, there is a lot of talk in the media lately about what they call ‘fake news’.
What that is all about is putting out a story that is basically a rumor.
The story may have aspects of truth in it that helps it appear to be valid.
But the story is not a verified whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God.
Both political left and right have been putting out ‘fake news’ stories because it works!
Mark Twain once said “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is just putting on its shoes”.
What ‘fake news’ does is give people stories that they want to believe is true.
It reinforces preconceived ideas on a subject or an issue in how they view the world.
So my fake story about Jesus instructing his followers maybe does just that a little bit.
It told a story we might feel more comfortable with if it was true;…
that is, if Jesus told us to keep our heads down and play it safe.
But Jesus never said or did the things that I included in my fake story.
In fact, what he told his followers was exactly the opposite of that fake story I told. Instead, we heard this morning he told them to shout his wisdom of God from rooftops.
To operate in the light of day so that all could see and learn the truth of God.
That what their message said might cause divisions even among family, but so what!
That it’s more important they tell the truth of God than to keep the peace in ignorance.
And then he told them not to be afraid of anything because God cared for them.
That the soul’s well being is more important than any physical harm they might suffer.
Finally he says to his followers;… ‘whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me (and) Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it”.
Does he mean we should look for potential adversity and hardship like he did?
Does Jesus actually mean that we should die for the sake of him and his message?
If so, then I like the Jesus of the first story…the fake news story….better than that one.
Most of us don’t want to die, to be harmed, or even to be made uncomfortable.
We’d rather be a person liked by others who doesn’t make waves or draw attention.
The less controversial or more popular we can be in life the better things will go for us.
But as Christian people Jesus does not call us to be quietly safe and sound.
Our value to God is not just as an object, like a jewel kept safely in the jewelry box.
We’re more to be like a hammer or chisel that is put to good use but can get dirty and nicked up by being a tool for God.
We are called to be righteous, that is do what is right, even if its unpopular.
To bring God’s honesty, even if it brings controversy upon us, even within families.
And we’re called to sacrifice for Jesus’ sake, even if it causes us discomfort or worse.
So for example,….
When you're at a party and people dismiss church going or faith or religion,…..
do you shrink away or just shrug or proudly say I go to church.
When you’re at a family function and someone tells a racist joke or makes a prejudice statement….do you laugh or say nothing or do you refuse to laugh or even criticize it?
When we come upon a situation where we could be a benefit to someone but it would infringe on our comfort and convenience,…do we just move on or stop and help?
That’s what Jesus means by losing your life - putting your sense of self:…comfort, security, and even safety at risk in order to do God’s will in the world.
To lose that which would inhibit us from doing what we know to be right.
To lose that part of your life, Jesus says, is to then find what true living is like.
Living, not for merely ourselves, but for the things of God and for others.
That’s how Jesus lived and that’s how he wants us to live.
I am not foolish enough to think that this is all just so easy to do:…. for sure, it’s not.
I wish I was more like Jeremiah who was bursting at the seams with the word of God.
He says in verse 9 “If I say ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name’, then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”
Yet, while we may not be as the prophet, we can still be motivated to do as Jesus says.
Not just because it is right, but also because the rewards of doing what Jesus would have us do are even greater than that of ‘playing it safe’.
The reward of knowing you’re brave enough to do so, regardless of other’s opinions.
The reward is of knowing that we are in tune with the God who is perfect in all ways. And the reward of knowing that we strive for and meet God’s approval, not the world’s.
In the end, God will love us either way and forgive us when we fall short and sin.
For wrong things we’ve done,….as well as for right things we’ve left undone.
And, in the end, we’re promised that when we die we’ll go to heaven.
But until then,…living for Christ, although more dangerous and risky,…is truly living.