christianity is hard
I think Christianity is hard.
That’s kind of a rough thing to say, and instantly brings up all kinds of objections. But it seems to be fairly clear in the gospels that Jesus doesn’t expect people to be able to accept his message easily. His statements about dividing family members, about the narrow and wide paths, about bringing “a sword”, all contribute to that impression.
But just as clear is the indication that it’s fairly easy for some people. And those people who find it easy are the prostitutes, the sinners, the poor, the lepers. In contrast, the rich will find it almost impossible.
The difference is remarkable, offensive, and hard to process. But I think it makes sense, and I don’t think it’s a class issue.
When we think of religion as hard, we’re likely to think of stringent moral guidelines. That’s what most societies are built on, and it’s the impetus for most religious communities. But Christianity is hard in almost exactly the opposite sense; Christianity requires that we abandon the things that make societies and religious communities tick.
Consider “turn the other cheek” or “love your enemies”. Anyone can tell you that those don’t make very good principles for organizing society. In fact, if you talk about it too much, someone will likely tell you that those statements are good in context, but that they don’t work for society as a whole.
I’m sure people told Jesus the same thing. He seems to have insisted on it anyway.
Consider his instruction to call no one “teacher” or “rabbi”. I’m sure people would have pointed out how communities need organization, that passing on the faith wouldn’t be possible without systems for doing so. Consider when he stated that your food choices don’t reflect your soul, but your word choices do. Consider when he told the Samaritan woman that people would worship “neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem”. Consider when he stated that he would tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days.
Nothing about Jesus’ teaching is compatible with society-as-usual. Which is why it is almost impossible for people invested in society or religion to accept. And why it seems compelling to those who have nothing left to lose.
Christianity is hard because it’s hard to swallow. It’s a tough idea to accept, and I don’t blame anyone for not accepting it. But when I hear people suggest that an idea is “too hard for the man in the pew”, then I think they’ve missed the point.