Since lockdown in the UK began at the end of March, I have been fascinated with the idea of resilience.
None of us imagined that 2020 would be quite like this and it’s got me wondering about the future. In Just Love we have this big picture vision to inspire and release a generation who are going to pursue God’s justice in every part of their lives, for the whole of their lives. But that isn’t going to be easy. What other crises are we going to face? How will our climate change? What will the social and economic repercussions of this pandemic be for decades to come? What personal crises – losing jobs, losing loved ones, relationships breaking down – will each of us experience?
I don’t ask these questions to make us feel down. Rather, our current context has challenged me to think, if, or even when, these hard things happen in the future, will we still be a generation who seek justice? Will we not only be persistent, continuing to serve in hard times, but will we be resilient too – engaged in hardship in a way that will enable us to come out with a stronger, richer, more defined sense of calling and leadership?
In the letter to the Hebrews, we meet a community who are going through a crisis. These are Jewish Christians, following Jesus only a few decades after his death and resurrection, and they are experiencing opposition.
The entire letter is focused on presenting the incredible gift of grace and mercy that has been given to us from God, through Jesus Christ. The author is urging the Christians that despite the hardship, despite the fear that they feel in choosing to follow Christ, they simply cannot stop pursuing him. Jesus is worth it.
In chapter 12, the author gives us a nice summary of his ‘resilience coaching’:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men that you will not grow weary and lose heart”
The first thing to point out here is the writer’s acceptance that hard things will happen to Christians. He mentions Jesus’ suffering on the cross and the painful opposition he received in our rejection of him. Jesus warned his disciples that we will have trouble in this world (Jn. 16.33) and called us to take up our cross and share in his suffering (Mt. 16:24). The writer to the Hebrews accepts this. Over our lives we will face illness, brokenness, rejection, opposition, perhaps even persecution. Such things may shock a secular culture with its gospel of optimism and success. But to followers of Jesus, the reality of evil in the world should not come as a surprise. We cannot be resilient in our pursuit of Jesus and justice unless we acknowledge that reality.
Secondly, the writer reminds the Hebrews that if they are to keep going in their mission to serve Jesus, they need to be absolutely focused on their reason for doing so. The cost of following Jesus makes it easy to give up if we don’t keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Remember who it is you are serving and why you’re doing this, the writer urges. ‘Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus’, as the ‘author and perfector’ of the faith. He is the creator, the sustainer and the redeemer. If we are going to sustain our pursuit of justice for the long haul, we have to deeply instil into our minds and hearts that our reason for doing so is Jesus. We need to fix our eyes on him. Theology matters, being honest with God matters, spending regular time receiving from him through the spiritual disciplines matters if we are to keep going.
My dream for our Just Love community, like the dream of the writer of the Hebrews, is that we will set off on this pursuit of God’s justice and keep going for the long-haul. We’ll be under no illusions – knowing that trouble and hardship will come, but we’ll be ready to face it, stand against it, and grow in it, because we have our eyes fixed on Jesus. Some things are going to be tough, but Jesus is always worth it.