Which Jesus is your favorite? I know, that’s an odd question, but it’s a fair one at the same time. I’m sure many of us would prefer the Jesus who showed compassion and mercy to children, widows, strangers, the sick, the marginalized, and so on. Conversely, many of us would prefer not to think about the Jesus who spoke of Gehenna, flipped tables over in anger, called Peter “Satan”, and placed harsh conditions on his disciples. And yet, Jesus is all of those things and more.
As hard as it is to think about Jesus saying and doing difficult things, it’s even harder to represent those things outside of our sometimes comfortable Church context. In Church, we can speak out on hard and challenging teachings knowing that, by and large, few are going to make a stand in opposition to those teachings. It’s when we leave the church grounds that things start getting a little more interesting. That’s why, this past week, I was so proud of my daughter Madeleine. Here’s why…
Madeleine was at school doing work with a couple of her classmates. One of those friends has been close to Madeleine for many years. These two classmates started gossiping about another girl classmate’s choice of a hairstyle that particular day, saying some fairly uncharitable things. After a while, Madeleine asked them to stop, adding that it wasn’t right to talk about people behind their back. The two other girls stopped for a moment in stunned silence and then continued on as though Madeleine hadn’t said anything at all.
And that was it. It was over as quickly as it had started. Madeleine had an opportunity to speak up in defense of another student and she did so, with no knowledge of whether or not her words would have any negative repercussions for her. She did what my wife and I have been teaching her to do, whether she did it consciously or not. When given the chance, she denied herself, took up her cross, and followed Jesus. She chose discipleship. And discipleship (or more broadly, Christianity) isn’t something one chooses once in their life and then never has to choose again. Choosing to be a disciple of Jesus and model your life after His is an every-day, many-times-a-day challenge. Does Madeleine choose discipleship all the time? No. Do you? No. It takes work. It takes practice. It’s no accident that the root of the word “disciple” is “student”. Students are taught and then do work to reinforce that teaching so that they can make life choices from that knowledge base as their life progresses. The same is true for Jesus’s disciples, for you and me.
Also, often when we make right, but difficult choices, there is a period of time directly afterwards when we wonder how our actions will be received. That is natural I think, and human. In those moments, we can take comfort in the words of Jesus from John 14:15-18:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate-to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, – which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.”
So take courage, don’t be afraid, and choose Jesus…always.