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Today: 31 May 2020


Hard to take

First published 12/05/2019

The Gospel had been preached.  But for at least one person present it was disturbing.  “I just can’t believe like that,” she said to a friend.  Like the rich young man of the gospel story (Matthew 19, verses 16-29), she “went away sad”.

It’s true that it can be hard to believe.  Jesus himself recognised that.  

One of his stories was about the farmer sowing seed on different kinds of land.  Much of the seed was wasted because it couldn’t take root or was choked off (Matthew 13: 1-9).

In one of his letters, Paul suggests that for some people the Christian message of Christ’s death on the cross sounds like nonsense.  For others it is upsetting (see 1 Corinthians 1: 23).  Clearly not everyone who hears the story will believe it.

We have to say as well, that the church sometimes makes it harder rather than easier to believe.  Some of the customs of the church can seem very strange.  Sometimes the behaviour of its members can turn people away.  Sometimes the church itself distorts or misses the point of the message.

However, none of that ultimately stands in the way of the fundamental question - but is it true?  If so, no amount of questioning, no discomfort or even sacrifice should divert us from facing up to it.    

It may help to recognise that there can be significant reasons why it’s hard to take.

  • It may involve some serious questioning, thinking and changes in our lives.  
  • It contradicts our common impression that we have to be good to earn God’s favour.
  • It can require a radical rethinking about the world and our place in it.
  • It requires a recognition that we are not holy or good enough, and that we need to come, and that we can come, in humility and trust to the God who loves us.
  • It may expose us to ridicule and rejection by those we love, or live and work with.
  • it requires a decision, or an acceptance, or a willing surrender on our part, which possibly we are hesitant or reluctant to make.
There may be any number of ‘reasons’ why it is difficult to believe.  Some of them though might disappear when we actually face them.  Some of the questions that we keep asking can in fact be answered.  Some of our hesitation may be just excuses to put things off.  Some of the things we fear might never happen.  Some of the joy and assurance and peace of coming to believe may overwhelm everything that made us hesitate before.

If we think of it as a journey, then the act of believing in God’s love in Jesus is not the end of the road, but the beginning of a journey of discovery.  Believing is an act of commitment to a process of growing in faith and love.

If in my heart I believe, that is enough.  I have taken the hand of Jesus and am discovering life through him.

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Through all the mists of my questions and uncertainties, Lord Jesus, lead me into deeper understanding and clearer faith and into your light.

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