I’ve heard that phrase many times before. It’s plastered all over small hamlets in the South East portion of the United States. The idea, of course, is that freedom is not easily come by. It cost someone something (usually referring to soldiers who give their lives in service to the American people).
Many Christians will immediately see a parallel, because Jesus gave His life to set His people free from sin. Jesus talked about it in economic terms, even. Way back when, long before the apparent greed of Wall Street and the impatience of the credit-seeking American people, Jesus knew that in our hearts, we are people of economy.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?
We’ve heard the question before. It’s rang throughout the ages for two thousand years. And still, the challenge goes largely answered. Certainly there are some who hear Jesus’ words and respond in kind. But that is not the norm.
Even in my own life, my small addictions (thank you, my dear Xbox) and my not-so-small addictions (curse you Amazon and you your cheap books!) add up. I’m not a minimalist at heart. There are areas I reduce (credit card debt), and there are ways in which my wife and I try to do something more than the status quo (gDiapers). Yet, it never really feels like enough though. Why?
Because God’s economy is totally different than mine. Throw in the various social stereotypes and traditions that cloud our minds, and we have the perfect recipe for a watered down Gospel. We hear radical ideas, and reject them immediately, simply on the basis that they are not what we are used to. This was the mistake of the Disciples. They never anticipated God’s Kingdom coming in the way Jesus inaugurated it. It frustrated them when Jesus spoke of sacrificing Himself. It scared them when He died. But more importantly, it thoroughly changed them when He rose from the grave. And that’s where we must get to.
American Christians suffer from this as well. Home school? That produces socially awkward, academically behind kids (despite much research to the contrary). Give sacrificially? No, I must be able to maintain a certain level of comfort (regardless of Jesus’ admonitions in Mark 8 and Matthew 6). Abandon the things that distract me from God like video games, television, cell phones, and the internet? Now let’s not be extreme; those are good things as well (perhaps, but what about Paul’s warning in II Corinthians 10:5?).
The list could go on, and in the process it would make many people uncomfortable, including myself. It touches all of us. Jeremiah wrote of how we deceive ourselves to get what we want, and Jesus knew that this was in the heart of humanity (Matthew 9, Matthew 12, Mark 12 are just a couple of examples). But He is calling us to His Kingdom, to His heart, to His work. No tradition of man should stand in the way. We must remain free from our selfish desires and cultural biases, so that we may freely serve Him in all that He desires to do.
In what ways are we rejecting God’s kingdom? What is God calling us to that is beyond our comfort? Are we deceiving ourselves? In what way is He asking us to step into trusting Him?
Are we willing to go there? It’s not the American Dream. It’s not the Kenyan Dream, for that matter. It’s something else entirely. But still the question remains.
Will we gain the Cross, and through it life? Or will we gain our Christmas list, and forfeit what really matters? For Christians, it’s a simple choice. Because Jesus paid it all, right?