It is one of my most vivid high school memories. I was with a group of guy friends from my school and we were at a local fair in the summer. There frankly was not a lot to do at it but hang out, but then some of them got the idea that what we should do is randomly pick up a bunch of girls and go drinking somewhere else. They proceeded, with some success, to begin to do this. I was certainly not going to be a part of that and told them I was just going to walk home. One of them said to me that I was a fool to not be a part of their fun and that I did not understand what I was missing. Though I did not doubt the appropriate nature of my choice, I so very clearly remember the lonely walk home and the feeling that I was just terribly out of step with the values and culture around me.
I’ve continued to be out of step most of my life.
This is our final day on the theme of being “all in” with our faith commitment, and hence our final day with the two parables we’ve been considering from Matthew 13:44-46 …
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
Since I’ve bludgeoned you with the main idea on Sunday and over the last three days of writings, you know that the main idea is this: The Kingdom of God – and your connection with it – is of such inestimable value, that it is actually worth you giving up everything for it.
But there is a challenge when you make that commitment to jump fully in that direction, and we could state the problem this way: Most of the people around you in the world are going to think you are nuts to make God’s Kingdom your “all in” priority.
In the same way that you don’t understand why someone’s “all in” fascination in life is going to a comic book collectors convention in downtown Detroit, or to Antarctica to search for a mysterious flock of albino penguins, the world will not understand your highly-driven values system that emphasizes a spiritual reward that is not ultimately of this material world. It will make no sense to them. They only understand those things that are a part of keeping score – the measurable stuff like dollars, job titles, and McMansions.
Whereas in today’s world, on the one hand, personal spirituality is fashionable, being one of those “born again” Christians won’t win you a lot of friends or wide respect.
Many people come to the Christian faith for the “perks.” We come to Jesus with a list of things we’d like help with:
- Will Christianity provide me with all the personal educational and career directions I need?
- Will I have better and deeper friends? … that one friend for life?
- Will my faith help me avoid suffering and pain, sickness and disease?
- Will my faith propel me toward financial stability?
- Will Christianity provide me a way to raise a successful family?
And of course the answer to many of these questions might well be “yes.” But the problem is, the “perks” of Christianity can’t outweigh the increasing social stigma of being a person of faith in today’s post-everything world. Yes, Jesus might provide a means by which I feel spiritually/emotionally/relationally secure, but is it worth it when my neighbors think of me as a religious fanatic?
- If you identify as Christian, you may become pigeonholed as homophobic or judgmental.
- You may be increasingly labeled as transphobic for expressing concern about the gender of your bathroom at work.
- In a world of increasing pluralism, we turn on our television to see ISIS members surrounding Christian missionaries while—at the same time—to speak disparagingly of Islam is to be labeled “Islamophobic.”
- You might be compelled to either bake a cake for a marriage you don’t agree with—or be forced to lose your business, pay a fine, or worse.
- You will increasingly be told that your beliefs are unwelcome in any form of public dialogue.
Surely there is now a greater cost to following Jesus. We can no longer follow Jesus solely because it is “useful.” Instead we follow Jesus because in him we find an inestimable treasure—one that provokes us to set aside our finances, our hopes, our dreams, everything—in order to follow him without reservation. In a world that calls us to “diversify our portfolios”—to be men and women of broad interests but little depth—Jesus calls us to go “all in.”
Some final thoughts/discussion questions …
How may we find encouragement in such a context where our “all in” commitment positions us as such a minority in our world? How does the church, and having a church family, factor into this?