Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. – Matthew 10
I’ve begun to use a simple tool, 3-Circles to explain the Gospel message to people on the streets. It’s not perfect, but it conveys a simple and visual message to listeners. It says, we are broken, that God originally had a perfect design but through our own bad choices we have become broken, and that Jesus can restore us. We just need to turn and follow.
When we go out on the streets today, I carry a little pad and pencil so I can draw the 3-Circles with people and explain things along the way. At the end, I ask, “which circle do you think you’re in?” which usually elicits a response, ‘brokenness.’ Which circle would you like to be in, and again we usually get the response, ‘God’s perfect design’. Then, to be frank, comes the stumbling block.
This weekend I met Toshi, a young Japanese student drawing on the streets – he will write your name in beautiful Japanese calligraphy, and chat at the same time, for a small donation. I asked him if he had heard the name ‘Jesus Christ’ which surprisingly he hadn’t until he looked it up in his translator. Then ensued the discussion, Buddha or Jesus, which seemed a natural point to introduce Jesus through the 3-Circles. As we walked through a simple Gospel message, we had a great discussion, and Toshi wrote Jesus beautifully in Japanese.
But it’s where people – many people, get stuck that intrigues me. I read it in their face, or they simply stumble or walk away.
You see, to get from ‘brokenness’ to ‘God’s perfect design’ we actually need to do something. We need to ‘turn and follow’ modern day parlance for repent and believe. Turning and following is where people stumble. In an instant, people seem to weigh up the demands that are ahead and consider the cost. Almost always, it is too much.
Think it ends there? Not at all.
Around the world, millions of believers sit in their churches, never having considered what it really means to ‘turn and follow.’ I have been one of them. The turning means to stop what we are doing, stop doing the things that offend Jesus profoundly. I think in the past 12 months, above everything I have come to realise the horror of the human situation. Not one of us will even remotely stand before a Holy God, we should all of us, be on our faces in the dust.
The follow occurs after the turn, it means simply that we do the things our Lord asks us to do. If he is our Lord, we will obey. If we recognise the horror of who we really are and what he has done, out of sheer gratitude, we will obey.
So few, so very few ever get to this, and so we end up almost following Jesus. To almost follow Jesus is what so many want; it means that we can carry on in the same vein, doing the same things that we did when Jesus first came to us. Little changes. Then, when he turns to us, raising his hand beckoning us to follow him to total obedience, we instead turn and go in a different direction.
How tragic for Jesus, how tragic for us. We see, we read about the freedom in the Gospels; we hear the stories even today, stories of those who are totally set free and then give their lives to him. But for us, for so many it seems so hard to give up. Is it because we have so much?
For those who do, what of them? Well, Jesus promises here that if we lose our lives for his sake – that is, if we truly turn and truly follow him, make him our Lord, we will gain our lives forever.
Surely it is time for us to take notice of that. If we will do it, consider too, others might notice.