Joleen and I are splitting shifts this week between caring for, and spending time with, Ethan and working on our dissertations (defenses are just over three weeks away).
I took yesterday afternoon and went to use the Wi-Fi Internet access at Wegmans. On the road to and from State College I listened to the last several chapters of Mark on CD.
One phrase from Jesus particularly grabbed my attention:
… it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God.
This line comes from the story of the rich man (Mark 10.17-31). In it, Jesus explains the man’s inability to follow — the guy’s possessions (or, more accurately, the things that possessed the guy) prevented him from surrendering his life to God.
Why is it hard to enter the kingdom of God?
On the one hand, I think some of us have a tendency to want to lower the bar, to make it as easy as we can for others to cross the line of faith and join us on the journey. The last thing we want to do is make it hard for people to follow God. But Jesus never seems to lower the bar.
Others of us, like the Pharisees, want to take matters into our own hands by creating rules that tend squeeze the God-life out of people. Jesus certainly had harsh words for such people. While Pharisees may create “religious people” (people who rely on a human made system for salvation) they do not form Christ-followers (people who’ve completely surrendered to God).
The real challenge is avoiding both of these extremes. It’s not about earning God’s approval. It’s not about following a set of rules. It’s not about reciting the sinner’s prayer. It’s not really even simply about believing in God.
It’s more than any of those things. It’s about giving your whole heart to God.
And there’s nothing more difficult than that!