The popular group Twenty One Pilots currently has a song out called “Ride” in which we find the following lyrics:
"I'd die for you,’ that's easy to say
We have a list of people that we would take
A bullet for them, a bullet for you
A bullet for everybody in this room
But I don't seem to see many bullets coming through
See many bullets coming through”
The gist of these lyrics is fairly obvious. We tend to talk a big game when discussing things we would do for people especially if there is little chance of those things ever happening. We can easily say that we would die for our fellow man but when it comes to actually stepping in front of someone else to absorb a bullet we most likely would find the action harder than the sentiment.
Growing up in a post-Columbine High shooting era was odd for many my age. When discussing the shooting there were often rumors about forced professions of faith and the antagonistic atheism of the school shooters, Klebold and Harris. I can recount several youth groups, discipleship retreats and summer camps where kids professed their willingness to become literal martyrs for the cause of Christ. They would all swear that if pressed to give an answer as to whether or not they were Christian they would answer with a resounding, “Yes!”
In the years that followed we came to find out that some of the stories of Christian martyrdom at Columbine lacked any credible backing and some of the stories were outright false. This didn’t seem to slow the fervor of Armageddon-ready Evangelicals willing to lay their lives on the line for Jesus. With the left behind series and the Jesus Freak!/Voice of the Martyrs craze many in the Bible Belt became inundated with stories of people willing to give their all for the cause. Now, it is important to pause and say that this in no one cheapens or degrades actual martyrs. The apostles, as far as we know, were almost all martyred. There are thousands of credible stories of Christians literally dying for their faith and the opportunity to spread it. Just so we are clear: I love, appreciate and pray for these folks who have made such great sacrifices for Christ. I simply realize that the vast majority of us will most likely never be called on to do so. So where does that leave us?
If we can not physically die for Christ then the only real alternative is to live for Him. The lyrics of the Twenty One Pilots song continues: ‘"I'd live for you,’ and that's hard to do/Even harder to say when you know it's not true.” And, I think, that’s what many of us struggle with. We can say that we would die for Christ but living for Him is in some ways harder! Again this in no way cheapens the sacrifice of literal Christian martyrs, but the idea of a long life lived in sacrificial service to God is tiresome and, if we’re honest with ourselves, downright scary! The day-in/day-out grind of sacrificing worldly pleasures to be closer to God is daunting. But that’s exactly what God asks us to do. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus is addressing the disciples and says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
The act of following Christ can be more than some can handle however. In Mark 10 starting in verse 17 we see the story of the Rich Young Ruler who begged to follow Jesus. However, when he was told to sell all of his possessions and donate the proceeds to the poor he grieved and could not do it. How many times does that happen in our lives today? How many things in our lives keep us from following Jesus? We all have jobs, busy schedules, children’s sports and activities, and social lives that keep us from doing the simple things God has asked us to do: love one another.
It is entirely possible to love others through our activities outside of the Church and we encourage that! However, we must take stock from time to time of our commitments and see whether or not they are things that God would have us do. We will most likely never be put in a situation to give our literal last breath for our belief in God. But, we should be able to face Jesus and gladly give up anything he asks of us in order to better follow Him.
JAMES DODSON | SPIRITUAL FORMATION PASTOR