When Following Jesus Takes an Ugly Turn

There are days when we all wonder if other Christians have even met the same Jesus we know.

While we know there are a variety of Bible translations, it can feel as though some Christians received a Bible full of Jesus smiles, children laughing, and Kum Ba Yah, while others cherish one full of thorns, spears, fire, and stones.

And we’re Facebook friends with people reading both versions. (sigh)

It’s tempting to concede we can’t really know the truth. It’s tempting to quietly unfriend those with extreme opinions. It’s tempting to retreat into silence and develop a monastic movement for every denomination. It’s tempting to simply take cover and wait things out until Jesus returns.

Others have been tempted as we are, there’s nothing new under the sun (not even Facebook). James lived in times when following Jesus took an ugly turn and this is his response to facing that temptation. James 1:12-17 ESV

We could hide and Jesus would continue to love us and welcome us into eternal life. There is nothing we do that earns us His love or eternity. He has accomplished all of that on the cross. But He demonstrated through His resurrection that He alone is God, so we have nothing to fear. Our lives bear witness to His power when we resist the temptation to run and hide.

God’s love creating courage from cowardice speaks a better gospel than most tracts we might leave in someone’s door hoping to avoid a direct conversation.

We live in contentious times. When a pastor praying becomes a debate in the pews. When a Catholic priest stating biblical truth makes national headlines. When political and social agendas are not contained to adult conversations, but show up at pre-school story hour, it is no time to think there are easier times ahead.

I love disaster movies. They’ve taught me something about facing down inevitable confrontation with a greater force. Those who try to run and hide are generally overtaken shortly after the opening credits. The survivors are always those who faced what was coming head on and rode with courage into the wave. I know they’re just movies, but isn’t it fascinating that admiring courage is hard-wired into our DNA and appears as a thread in all our stories?

In some ways, the answer is simpler than we’re making it. Jesus-followers need to listen and learn to ask thoughtful questions of others before speaking. We need to study the truth and learn to state it simply and unapologetically.

And, we need to open ourselves to Jesus, allowing Him to remove all spiritual impediments to loving others and embracing the truth ourselves so we are free from pride and self-deceit.

During a karate class years ago, I had a vision of what following Jesus beside other believers could be like. At the start of every class night at the dojo, every student from white belt to fifth degree black belt, would line up on the classroom floor and engage in the same basic moves. Punch. Kick. Block. Stand. Repeat.

Our sensei would walk the lines correcting everyone. Everyone. And each time he adjusted a fist or aligned a forearm or modified a leg-line, the student would reply, “Thank you, Sensei.”

No one ever stared him down and questioned his authority to make corrections. No one ever insisted their way of doing it was perfectly fine. No one ever defied him once his back was turned and resorted to their former way.

He was our role model. We respected that he’d worked on these moves just as we had. We saw from his life he could practice what he preached. And we all understood we were engaged in an art where we could expect to spend our entire lives improving.

Does Jesus deserve any less from His people?

You see, we don’t hide out of humility, but out of pride. We don’t remain silent out of love and tolerance, but out of fear.

Courage and confidence will appear the moment we put our eyes on Him, receive His refinement, and focus on the task at hand. In humility, when we speak it will not be out of judgement. In love, when we answer, it will not be to best someone else, but to light a candle in the dark. In truth, when our lives demonstrate the words we speak, we will earn the right to be heard by some (though others will always remain unhearing.)

When following Jesus takes an ugly turn, we can turn tail and hide, but that’s choosing to live in a lesser story than the one to which we’ve been called.

These are days of a great story that calls for courage born out of love and truth, spoken with tones of humility and grace. Let’s not miss the opportunity in the mess. Let’s turn and face what’s coming – side-by-side – our eyes on Him who led the way.


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    The Conversation

  1. Linda Harris says:

    This is what I needed to hear today, after wanting to run away and hide like Elisha when Jezebel was after him (which just happened to be my Bible reading for today). Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Sherry Carter says:

    Unfortunately, I’ve never been one to run and hide; I have the stubbed toes and bruises to prove it. Sometimes I stand and fight for the wrong things, sometimes for the right ones. My courage and my common sense aren’t always in sync.

    Your post reminds me that I need to be as courageous when standing up for God’s truth. I need to trust that He will guide my words and actions. I should be willing to have hard conversations, as your book is teaching me.

  3. Jean Trembley says:

    Thanks Lori! It’s always a blessing to see how God uses us to encourage, bless and feed one another.

  4. Anonymous says:

    We’re there! Aren’t we?
    This is that time.
    The boldness of the Apostles leads us to the center of the story He’s writing for each of us. (Even though we may attend a small country Church in a seemingly obscure location.)

  5. Douglas Chanco says:

    We are soldiers carrying the banner of Calvary a Cross! Our Commander in Chief have nail scarred hands and feet!
    The King of Kings and Lord of all! The road may be rough
    and narrow but it’s destination is Paradise with the King.
    We are Soldiers not tourist in this temporary world.
    The reward we will receive surpasses the hardships we go through
    No more nights, no more pain, no more tears, no more goodbyes,
    No more sickness, just Joy and gladness throughout Eternity.