OK, so back to Pilgrim’s Progress.
Christian has left Vanity Fair, and he’s light one Faithful, whose testimony before the court was his last. However, having seen the passion of Faithful, and the peacefulness of Christian, a man by the name of Hopeful has joined Christian on his journey now, so he’s not alone.
Moving along the road, they encounter an interesting group of men with a variety of interesting names I’m too bored to type out here. They’re an interesting group of men who claim to to differ on two points with religion:
1) “We never stride against wind and tide.”
2) “We are always most zealous when religion goes in his silver slippers; we love much to walk with him in the street, if the sun shines and the people applaud it.”
You can kind of seeing where this is going.
The men that Christian and Hopeful have encountered are an example of Christians who only utilize religion for their own gain, when it best suits them. We’ve all kind of met people like this in all religions, like that kid who claims to be Buddhist just so he can look “enlightened,” or Christians who think that Jesus is going to give them a car and good health (Joel Osteen, I’m looking at YOU). Those are the examples that spring to mind right off the top of my head, however…
…I feel as though I can easily admit my own guilt in this matter. It’s not just the health and wealth preachers who sound like this, but all of us who came into Christianity under the promise that things were going to change FOR US. That promise was, and is, true, but not in how we think it is. You see, I remember growing up and hearing the call to come to Jesus, to “ask him into your heart” (whatever that means). I was promised that things were going to be different if I did, that my problems were going to change. And I believed that.
However, I was only prepared to follow Jesus if He went with the current, if he “walked in silver slippers.” The way those preachers made it sound was that would be all the time. When it wasn’t, I felt lied to. I felt like God wasn’t doing what He promised.
Then I started reading the Bible. I started reading the horrible adversity that those who followed God faced, how Peter was beaten, and later crucified upside down. I read how Paul was stoned, beaten, imprisoned, and later believed to have been beheaded. I read how James never, ever stopped preaching the Gospel, even up to the point where his own head was on the chopping block (he even won his own executioner over, who then joined him in death). I’ve read of martyrs the world over, executed for their belief in and love for the Living God.
Suddenly, my problems didn’t matter so much. It’s a bit of a leap, but I’m willing to bet that ever great Christian in the last 2000 years had their own personal issues they had to work through before they finally took up Christ’s cross and faced the world in spite of everything. Me? I was griping because I wasn’t popular in high school, because my job was hard to do sometimes.
Fact of the matter is, for Christ to change us, He has to hurt us, and it hurts because of our own unwillingness to follow religion in rags, to walk against the current of adversity, of hardship and tough times. When we come to Christ with our list of things we want different, we’re not really following Christ. The Living God is not found in the paths of least resistance, though we may not find resistance ALL the time. We’ll have our days, and then we’ll have our nights. We must be prepared for all things in life, and strive with God as He strives with us.
On that note, keep striving! Wear your rags with pride, and walk upstream!