A scene from the 1989 movie, Parenthood:
Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.
Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!
Gil: What a great story.
Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it...
Among the life-altering things I remember reading in Leonard Sweet's 1999 classic SoulTsunami, was a section about what it is like to really follow Jesus. There is nothing risk-free about following the Christ. Yet so many pastors (especially those appearing on TV) seem to teach that the quickest path to the "good life" is becoming a Christian. They make it all sound so predetermined and orderly. Follow Jesus and you will quit sinning. Quit sinning and God will bless you. When God blesses you, life will be full of rainbows and unicorns. It's as simple as that! Well, no...it's not. There is nothing orderly about following Jesus, because in fact, the Good News is chaotic!
I have checked the gospels pretty thoroughly, and I can say with some confidence that Jesus never said any of the following:
"Come follow me and that girl will FINALLY love you!"
Jesus often taught that in order to make things right, we must first turn them upside down. He wants us to transform the first into the last, the weak into the powerful, the lost into the found. But all of that starts with the things we do with our own lives. If we really want to follow Jesus, we are going to have to get a little WILD! Psalm 115:3 reminds us that "our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." We sing "our God is an awesome God" and then proceed to try to confine God with our own limitations. His creativity and unpredictability are beyond our comprehension. Remember Isaiah walking through town naked (Isaiah 20:2-3)? That was God's idea. Remember the Angels appearing to shepherds in the fields and singing them a good Christmas song? God again. Sacrificing his only Son so that we might live in community with Him? Only God.
All of this leads me to wonder about my own life. I have always prayed for safety, comfort and low-risk opportunities to serve my Savior. In fact, to be a Jesus Freak is to pray for the opposite. It is to pray that God would turn my life upside down and lead me to risk everything in the name of the One who saved me. It is to welcome the trials that God will send my way. I believe more and more that the invitation to follow Jesus comes with an "I dare ya!" They are dares because when we truly follow His example, the people around us will look at us like the boy at lunch who used to eat bugs on a dare. Jesus dares us to love the way he loved. He dares to us share meals with the most offensive people around us. He dares us to believe that all things are possible with Him by our side. He dares us to love our enemies. He dares us to let love flow from our hearts even when we don't understand it. And Jesus dares us to follow -really follow- by taking up our crosses and following Him where He leads instead of constantly begging Him to join us where we are.
Many of us do not hesitate to get on a roller coaster that travels 90 mph down an 85 degree slope and flips us upside down and corkscrews all around. We love it. It excites us. And once we've experienced it, the merry-go-round does seem pretty lame. Thus it is with becoming a radical follower of Jesus Christ. Get risky and try it- I promise you'll never want to be just a "church member" ever again. Get DANGEROUS with Jesus...I dare ya!
Because of Jesus,