THE “WHAT IF JESUS WAS SERIOUS CHALLENGE?”

“WHAT IF JESUS WAS SERIOUS?” … As soon as I saw the title, I knew I would have to buy the book, the author had hooked me. The author was Skye Jethani and the book is about the message of the Sermon on the Mount.

 Jethani’s basic thesis is that most of us professing Christians either look for excuses for why we can’t live as Jesus tells us to in the Sermon on the Mount or we simply refuse to believe Jesus seriously wanted us to live like that in the first place. Despite what we might say to the contrary, the way we live shows that we regard what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount as either impractical or impossible.  Jethani goes on to claim that this refusal to take Jesus seriously has robbed the church of its missional power and so deprived the world of the intended impact the church was to make for the Kingdom of God. Jethani says “What if the underlying malady afflicting Christians today isn’t that we take Jesus too seriously, but that we’ve failed to take Him seriously enough? What if much of the culture’s judgment of Christians isn’t the result of obeying Jesus, but the result of Christians ignoring Him?”

Of course, Jethani isn’t the first person to draw attention to this problem. This tendency to refuse to take Jesus’ example and teaching seriously is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” in his famous book about discipleship.  Basically, Bonheoffer says we have largely emasculated discipleship and recreated a Christianity without those awkward challenging bits that disrupt our safe comfortable lives.  The result is a counterfeit version of Christianity with a veneer of religiosity, but which underneath is exactly like the surrounding culture. Dallas Willard, another writer with deep insight into discipleship, described this problem by saying that he believed all too many Christians didn’t believe Jesus was the smartest person to ever live. In other words, they simply didn’t believe Jesus’ teaching was the best way to live for them in their situation and believed they knew better.

Jethani ends the book by saying “Jesus is smart. Jesus is serious. Imagine how your life would be different if you took Him at His word. And imagine how our world would be different if those who claimed to follow Jesus actually did.”

When I read those words, a question started swirling around in my mind …. “What would MY LIFE be like if I took Jesus seriously?”

That question got so under my skin that I set myself a challenge. I read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and as I read, I noted down answers to that question “What would my life be like if I took Jesus seriously?”

Here are some of my answers to that question:

If Jesus was serious, I’d care more about the least, the lonely and left out of the world.

If Jesus was serious, I’d trust God more and politicians less to put right what’s wrong in society.

If Jesus was serious, I’d need to love even those whose politics I dislike.

If Jesus was serious, I’d care more about justice and be more vocal in my opposition to injustice.

If Jesus was serious, I’d realise loving people that are difficult to love and don’t even like me is not optional but essential.

If Jesus was serious, I’d follow Him whatever the cost because I would believe it will be ultimately worth the price.

If Jesus was serious, I would want to be good rather than just do good things.

If Jesus was serious, I would take my sin much more seriously.

If Jesus was serious, I would hunger more for holiness.

If Jesus was serious, I’d worry less.

If Jesus was serious, I would need to stop watching some TV programmes and be more discerning about the websites I visit.

If Jesus was serious, my tone would often be different on social media and I wouldn’t reply to everything that was said to me and about me.

If Jesus was serious, I would be more content with what I have in life.

If Jesus was serious, I’d realise that who I am becoming should have a higher priority than what I am doing.

If Jesus was serious, I would need to stop retaliating when people hurt me, even if that retaliation was rehearsed only in my mind.

If Jesus was serious, I’d have a different definition of success and happiness.

My list isn’t finished and certainly isn’t definitive. I suspect I am going to be adding to as I get more deeply into that book and think more seriously about what Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount.

I want to throw down the gauntlet to you now. I want to issue you with a challenge.

 I challenge you to sit down with pen and paper and read the Sermon on the Mount several times. I challenge you as you do that to ask the Holy Spirit to show you how your life would be different if you took what Jesus was saying seriously. Then write down the different things about your life that would be different.

Finally, I challenge you to start living as if Jesus was serious when He called you to live that way.

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