From the outside, you may think it’s not easy to be a Christian. From what you may hear, there are a lot of rules and righteous stuff to do. You have to love your neighbor and turn the other cheek. You have to be honest and spend a chunk of your weekend at church. People from this church place will flood into your life whether you like it or not. You are now accountable to a whole bunch of other strange people who call themselves Christian. For someone who is doing just fine on your own, this certainly doesn’t sound easy.
Even more than that, you may get the feeling that it is hard just to say you’re a Christian in our modern culture. It may have been socially acceptable at one time in history, but today it is a blatant walk against the flow. Society casts the answers of science in direct opposition to the answers of religion. Contemporary institutions reject the idea that theology is a reliable field of study. Courts have decided our rights and laws are not in line with so-called Biblical truths. All the while, people have sheepishly omitted “Christian” greetings, such as Merry Christmas, from their holiday vocabulary. It may seem harder each passing day.
But neither one is the hardest part of being a Christian. It’s not the hardest thing that most of the culture is against us. It’s not the hardest thing that there is a never-ending list to do. The hardest part of being a Christian ends up being the simplest thing we could possibly do—hear.
Because when we hear, we are not in control. We do not decide if those words brushing our ears are encouraging or condemning. We do not decide when and how those words enter our being. We do not even choose what those words do to us—sometimes joy, sometimes shame, sometimes relief, sometimes regret. A Christian hears the Word of the Lord and it is the hardest thing we will ever do.
Imagine, finding yourself tucked into a hospital bed. But you cannot see. You feel a crisp bedsheet pinning your arms to your side. But, pressing through your confined arm, nothing moves. Not even a centimeter. Your arms, legs, eyelids, your whole being is lifeless and limp. Only your ears detect a sound. A quiet shuffle at first, but eventually a voice moves closer and closer. The words that follow overtake the listening ears, no matter what is said. Whether it is a discussion of painful torture or a hopeful talk of recovery, you are consigned to lay motionless. Trapped only to hear the words outside of you.
Oh, how much easier it would be if you could get up and take matters into your own hands! Do what needs to be done, fix the problem at hand. Face the voice and tell Him I can do this on my own! Rise yourself out the bed and move yourself to safety. How much easier would it be to jump from the restraints and fight! You could take a stand to defend yourself. You could do so much, but all you really do is hear.
And this is the hardest part of being a Christian. We hear a voice that exposes our sin. It lays bare our secret desires and our shameful secrets. We listen to our God who condemns and kills those who cannot follow His good and perfect law. We listen, we are slayed. And no matter how much we struggle to impotently lift a finger for righteousness, we still only hear.
We are no longer controlled by sin as He moves our lips to speak love and forgiveness. We are passive as He acts out His words and His salvation for us.
And this is the hardest part of being a Christian. We hear a voice that our eyes can’t see. The perfect actions of Another are granted to a dirty soul. Our walk is blameless and victorious, not by our story in the mirror, but by the account of what He said. God gave His only Son in order that all who believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. But, how do all believe? Believing comes by the word of Christ. We live forever, not because we’ve seen it in ourselves or have done anything about it. We simply hear.
And this is the hardest part of being a Christian. We hear a voice that renders us passive and dependent. It marks and chooses, drowns and resurrects. It creates and loves and possesses others with a new breath of eternal hope. Living bread and water pour from only this voice. The ones who are fed by this Word of life will never grow hungry or thirsty again. We are captive to what we hear.
Yet, hearing is the simplest part of being a Christian. The Spirit has opened our ears to hear. Our deadly sins are exposed—but stand powerless dripping with the blood of Christ. We are no longer controlled by sin as He moves our lips to speak love and forgiveness. We are passive as He acts out His words and His salvation for us.
The hardest part about being a Christian is the simplest. We hear.