Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us
Hebrews 12:1 (NET)
Are you serious?
This question is most often uttered with a tone of incredulity, as in, do you actually believe the nonsense that just came out of your mouth? Are you really so stupid that you actually did what you I just saw? Surely there is a joke here somewhere, and I’m waiting for the punchline.
Five hundred years ago this week Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the All Saints Church in Wittenberg. The initial reaction of the theological establishment was a form of “are you serious?” Luther’s challenging of the status quo, with particular impact on the pockets of the sellers of indulgences, was unthinkable. A year later he was put on trial for heresy, and ultimately excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
Today, we celebrate his boldness and the Reformation that gave rise to Protestant Christianity. In the hindsight of history, few even think to question. Yet Luther himself said that had he known what would follow from his actions, he probably wouldn’t have taken them.
There is a second, more probing form of this interrogative. It calls into question your commitment, your dedication, your willingness to sacrifice to achieve the goal. In one form or another, probably every athletic coach has challenged the athlete to give more, push harder, commit more completely.
Similarly, students engaged in rigorous academic study may be questioned on their commitment. Any time hard work is required, the casual adherent is likely to fall away; only the most dedicated stay the course. Let’s face it, hard work is no fun; there are less costly and more pleasing uses for my energy.
The leaders of the American Revolution, signers of the Declaration of Independence were under no illusions about the significance and the consequences of their actions. The last sentence of the Declaration states their commitment: And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Recently I have found myself being challenged in my faith. I remember as a young man in college searching for the meaning of life. My question to God was, “Am I just supposed to be a good person, love and provide for my family, or is there something more you are calling me to?” At the time, I found myself encouraged to be radical, steeped in the words of Leonard Ravenhill, David Wilkerson, and Keith Green. If these names are not familiar to you, they are worth getting to know. They are each dedicated men of God with an unwavering commitment to His kingdom and glory. I concluded that such a radical love as Jesus demonstrated to me in purchasing salvation demanded a radical life in response.
But along the way of living life, loving and providing for my family, I fear I have slipped into being just a good person. It is said that “life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.” Other things, other interests, other desires fill my mind and my heart, leaving little room for knowing, pursuing, loving my savior.
I look around me, and I don’t find many role models pushing me harder, encouraging me to live radically. The pretty good facade I have developed seems to be about all that is expected, even in the church. If someone were to ask for more, expect more, demand more, I probably could give it. But this sure is comfortable.
I hear a voice from the recesses of my heart, in that place where the Holy Spirit is still welcome, coaching me quietly, insistently, probingly, challenging me to dig deep, to give my all. Maybe you’ve heard that voice too.
Are you serious?