As a growing Christian, I heard many versions of what it meant to be a Christian. While in come cases, it was presented as a new way of life with its many blessings and sacrifices, in other cases, the Christian faith was presented as the gateway to a life of bliss and nothing to worry about. I also had to deal with different opinions on how a Christian should live and this ranged from austere to very liberal.
One of the things that has helped me deal with the various and differing points of view is to not only examine what Jesus said but to also examine what He did not say. So what are the things that Jesus didn’t say? There are quite a lot but I would like to focus on a few things that people seem to believe He said which He didn’t.
Jesus didn’t say you’ll have everything easy once you follow Him - I have heard people say, “Before I became a Christian, things were fairly okay but the moment I gave my life to Christ, things went from bad to worse. I thought it was meant to get better?” There are people who hear the gospel message preached to them not only as the message of salvation but also as a magical solution to all the problems in our lives.
The hearers of such messages come to the Lord with the expectation that every problem in their lives would disappear overnight and things would immediately become peaceful and happy. The truth is that Jesus never said that. On the contrary, He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) In other words, Jesus was saying, "It is a given that you would encounter problems but I will be with you and help you to overcome because I already did!"
In another Scripture verse, we read, “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) The Christian life is not a trouble-free one but it is one in which we are empowered to overcome any problem that we come against because Christ has overcome all on our behalf.
Jesus didn’t say we should cut off all contact with people because of our faith. One of the things I had to deal with as a growing Christian was being taught not to socialise with non-believers. I remember as a teenager, one of the things this kind of teaching impacted, was my struggle to avoid playing football with my school friends. I would stand afar off and look longingly at my mates playing football and would yearn to join them.
On those days that I yielded to temptation, I would crawl into my bed later that night praying for forgiveness. What I discovered later was that following Jesus was not a set of dos and don’ts. It was a life lived through the Spirit that was deposited within us when we gave our lives to Jesus. As we yield to the Spirit, we are built up into the nature and character of God living within us.
In Mark 2:15, Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house. We are told that many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Him and His disciples. The Pharisees, who were the greatest critics of Jesus asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16) Jesus heard and replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
We have been sent to go into the world and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) Unless we interact with and engage people with no faith, how can we preach the good news to them?
Jesus never said sickness or problems are the consequence of sin. One day, Jesus and His disciples met a man who was blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (John 9:1-2)
They were sure that the man’s blindness was a result of sin but what they were not sure of was whether it was his sin or that of his parent’s. Jesus’ response must have been a shock to them, “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins, This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” (John 9:3)
Some things happen as a consequence of sin but the fact that we have problems or inflicted with some disease or ailment is not an indication that we have sinned.
(To be continued)