I asked my friend why he didn’t go to church anymore. We first met over twenty years ago, when we were two goofy high school kids going about life like many other Christian kids in suburban America: study, hang out with friends, and serve at our church youth groups every weekend. I had not talked to him since, and here we were, now two grown and married men, managing a litter of small children at another kid’s birthday party.
He wasn’t opposed to church, he’d explain. He was actually open to going. And he had no gripes with the idea of God in general. But a life of faith, if it was done right, demanded too much. So with the stress of keeping his business afloat, and the constant ruckus at home after a long day, why would he add yet another thing to manage in his already busy life? God was not a burden he was willing to bear.
I can see things from his perspective. All of us are navigating different life stages, each with their distinct ways of demanding our whole selves: mental, emotional and physical. And now as a result of this current pandemic, we face additional challenges that require even more from us. Our lives are already so occupied. So the idea of a life of faith on top of this? No way. Because my friend was absolutely correct in his assessment of it: If you want to be my disciple, Jesus said, deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me. In other words, a life of faith demands everything from us.
But consider the testimonies of those who, in spite of all that life threw at them, had stepped out by faith, denied themselves, and taken up their crosses: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss… because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Oh the wonderful cross bids me come and die and find that I may truly live.
What did they taste and see that many miss? And what are the beliefs about God that we — or our friends, or people around us — can hold on to that prevent us from coming to him? I wonder: if we were to know God for how he truly reveals himself, would we be compelled to come and die, and find that we might truly live?
Join me in exploring this question as we review Life Explored, a safe, informal and relaxed seven-week course. Invite your friends who may be curious about Christianity. It’s completely free of charge, and you don’t need to know anything about the Bible. We’ll meet weekly through Zoom on Wednesdays, from October 7 to November 8. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to seeing you there.
Peter Hwang and his family have been members of GRC since 2018. He teaches Bridge for Grace Kids, and will lead the Life Explored Series in the Fall.