If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
This past Sunday, one of the pastors from my church gave a sermon that focused on Christmas from the perspective of God. He brought up the way in which we as Christians think of Christmas as a time of receiving the gift of Jesus Christ. It’s the time when we celebrate His entrance into the world, but my pastor shifted the point of view to God’s, the giver of the gift.
He described how God knew how the people would treat the precious gift of His Son. The pastor focused on the crucifixion and the death that Christ willingly walked to like a lamb to be slaughtered. There is such incredible beauty in viewing Christmas this way, and it causes me to become incredibly humbled.
As the pastor preached, though, another realization began dominating my mind. That gift was not only disrespected in the moments leading up to His death on the cross. That disrespect can persist in my daily life through the way that I treat His commands. How often do I ignore some of the hard things that Christ had to say in favor of the things that were easier to take?
Of course there is grace. Of course there is, and I am far from perfect. Words like those in Luke 14, however, are powerful and extremely demanding not because God has a high standard (though He does). The cost is so great because He paid such an immense price. He lost more than His own, physical life for us. He bore the wrath of God meant for sinners. Sometimes, though, I feel as though we can mishandle His grace.
Now, if you look at the life of Christ and the way that He worked with His disciples, you can see how grace manifests itself. Consider Peter specifically. If you know anything about Peter, you likely know that he was the disciple who denied Christ three times before the rooster crowed (Mark 14:66-72). You also probably know the saying “Get thee behind me Satan” which was spoken by Christ to Peter (Matt. 16:23). Peter was brash, impulsive, and in a word, human. Yet in the end, he was the disciple on whom Christ would build the church (Matt. 16:18).
God gave the good gift of His Son knowing full well that people would not know how to handle Him once He came. Now, 2,000 years later, we still find ourselves looking at grace selfishly. When I think about Christ’s relationship with Peter, it seems apparent that Christ didn’t fix Peter. His grace didn’t work to make Peter holy in and of himself. The gift was that the relationship between him and Christ had been repaired. Grace makes us holy through Christ, not in and of ourselves. The relationship to God is renewed, and it allows us to move and breathe in this life with a purpose that matters in more than a mere temporal sense.