John 6:66 …many of His disciples followed him no more.
When I read John chapter six I get a strong feeling of déjà vu, like somehow I have been there before. After reading this passage I am usually left with a deep sense of introspection. The fingers of self blame are many and pointed, after all when you find a fault within yourself, it is tough to run away. The actions of these devout Jews tend to reflect my own history more than I care to admit.
Here I see God Himself, reaching out to the physical needs of humanity by the means of the miraculous and humanity responding like we often do, by walking away. I am famous for it, after all I have had a lifetime of practice. I hold a masters degree in evading God.
Jesus, in John chapter six, fulfilled the ultimate in modern ministry. He met unlovely people where there were, accepted them, fed them, taught them, and loved them. All aspects of mercy were operating in Divine force, yet as soon as the message got a little rough, humanity was whisked away by the justifying need to continue to follow God as they used to. It goes to show that no matter how tolerant and giving you are it is accepted by people only as long as the handout lasts.
I lose all sense of peace when I attempt to bring God into what I created, instead of Him lovingly escorting me into what He preordained. Jesus did not want these men to leave, He loved them. But He loved them enough to let them go if that is what they so wished. When my idea of God clashes with God himself I am forced to choose between God and religion. If I choose the latter, then that is when Jesus lets religion leave. Jesus went a step farther in the text and opened the exit for those who stayed. He looked at His disciples and asked, “Will you leave me too?” Jesus doesn’t want me to love Him because of a handout. He wants me to stay with Him not because of what He gave me but because of who He is to me.
I have seen many types of relationships over the years but the ones I find the most valuable are the ones which thrive in love in spite of difference and disagreement. These are rare because you have to love the person more than your theology. It is the way God loves us. I am certain that even the best of us have areas that God highly disagrees with, yet this does not stop His undying love for us. Most of the time we sacrifice our relationships, including God’s, upon the alter of right and wrong instead of the tree of life. Peter answered, “Where else will we go? Only you have the words of life.” Life trumps being momentarily correct. Is a friendship strengthened because someone won an argument?
When I can force myself to look beyond the moment and all of its pressures to sort out who is right and wrong, then I am able to see life. Life is that tree that sits quietly behind right and wrong waiting for someone to partake of its fruits. Once you have eaten of this tree you would die for the one you disagreed with. In the same way Jesus disagreed with me yet still offered His body upon the tree of life. While I was His enemy He died for me.
I can hold so tightly to what I believe that I choke the life out of it. I can adhere to truths so aggressively that I forget their intention and place amongst God’s people. Jesus showed us how to spend our lives with both sides of the coin showing. Mercy and truth met and kissed in the life of Jesus Christ. This is an amazing union, for naturally the two are opposed. I either show mercy and do not tell the truth for fear of losing the one I am showing mercy to, or I speak truth without the mercy and compassion of God and offend a friend. Yet, I must understand that even when Jesus operates these things through me in perfection, it does not mean that people will stay. Sometimes, the greatest test of love is to watch those whom you will die for leave.
So I ask myself, “Does God see my back or my face?” Am I leaving because its hard or am I leaning in to hear the words of life?