If someone were to describe your behavior as “peculiar”, you would most likely not take it as a compliment. Peculiar’s origin as a word stems from particular, singling out an item or idea from the rest, but over time the definition, and more importantly, the connotation has shifted. To be peculiar is not simply to be different, but to be strange, funny, odd, specifically to a way we act or think seemingly with rational or reasonable explanation behind the behavior. Peculiar could be someone who wears different styles, colors, and heights of socks simultaneously (me), or someone who doesn’t like the food on their plate to touch (my wife), or someone who would turn down all the wealth of this world to serve the will of God (Jesus, Matt 4).
There is truly something odd about the Christian life. We are constantly denying our instinct in order to fulfill our call. Many times Jesus uses radical, hyperbolic language to teach the most important disciplines of the strange Christian life. These words are meant to shock, encourage whispers, and dramatically shift the way we act and think. Those who want complacent faith? To have miracles without the mindset? To have salvation without giving up their reputation or station? They walked and will continue to walk away. They don’t want to be perceived as peculiar, and more accurately, don’t want to be forever changed – a holy-first mindset.
In keeping with today’s theme, here is a shortlist of six of the most odd and convicting teachings of Jesus. If you’re not different or weird because you do these things, then you are doing them wrong. As you devote time to reading this list, use this as an opportunity for a gut check – are you only a listless spectator watching and critiquing without any action or any sacrifice or are you actively working on becoming a sold-out slave to the Savior’s summoning?
1. You must be baptized for forgiveness and to receive the Spirit – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3 – Jesus has an eye-opening conversation with Nicodemus about the way God uses this symbolic gesture that had become a part of Jewish religious culture. John the Baptist, like others before him, uses immersion in water as a means of symbolically cleansing us from our sins, but Jesus sets the example (Matt 3) that this also symbolizes a changing of our mindset. The death and burial of our old self, and the rebirth of someone who is ready to receive the Spirit, the dwelling of God’s power in us. There are theological nuances that we will leave to the scholars to debate, but this symbolic act is clearly exampled and talked about by Jesus, and practiced and talked about some more by his disciples. This is the beginning. If you haven’t been baptized, but you see the compelling case for Christ in your life, now is the time. This symbol marks the launching point, not the precipice to our walk in Him.
2. You must be willing to live and die for Christ – “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matt 16:24,25 – Obviously the apostles saw something happen that dramatically shifted the trajectory of their lives forever. After the resurrection of Jesus, they were accused of moving His body to perpetuate the story that He had risen. But would every single one of these men be ready and willing to travel so far and literally give up their lives for Christ? While a single man might die to protect a lie, I find it very hard to believe a whole group of men would do so. All of them, save John who was exiled, were put to death, each one receiving their punishment, not simply for their beliefs, but for their pursuit of evangelism and sharing the good news. They each daily sacrificed their life, and even used their death, as testimony of the life-altering Gospel message.
3. You must live out communion – “For My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will live because of me“ – John 6:56 – Here we have another physical gesture that is symbolic of Christian life. While it is not too difficult to eat a piece of bread or crackers, or knock back a cup of wine or grape juice, the conviction of these symbols is terrifying – we must always remember that we are striving to be one with Christ. Anything we put in our body, use our body for (i.e. sex, 1 Cor 6:18), or anything that happens between our two ears, has to be reconciled by or repented to Christ for Him to remain in us. This means the act of communion, whether done formally or figurative as a daily discipline, should be convicting and purging us from the things that tear us away from Christ.
4. You must find joy in persecution and dejection – “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11 – Our natural instinct when we are attacked is to strike back. If you hit me, I will return the blow. If you hurl insults at me, I will use my wit and tongue to put you in your place. Even when we gratify ourselves with revenge, there is no joy in it. In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles receive a verbal and physical lashings. What is their response? Jubilation. They found great joy in suffering for Christ because it meant they were becoming more like Him, and they were living out the Great Commission. We should be ready and willing to be challenged, made fun of, and even receive physical abuse because we have taken a stand for Christ. When we take a stand and our joy grows, but so does our testimony and resolve (James 1:2,3), compelling others to seek out the reason for our peculiar perseverance.
5. You must be willing to count anything as loss – “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” – Matthew 18:8 – The example Jesus uses is a challenge to control our carnal nature using figurative language. If someone had the resolve to literally cut off the hand or foot, they definitely have a resolve to control other behaviors in the life. But are we willing to literally cut out other things? Are you willing to give up comfort? Opportunities? Sports? Friends? Family members? Would you be willing to be thought of as dumb, ignorant, a fool, and even pitied? Would you be willing to part with all of your money, all of your possessions, and all of your time? It is better to lose your identity in this world or to have no home, than to be thrown alongside your pride and identity in the fire. It is better to throw away a coveted scholarship than for you to be thrown alongside your degree to be thrown in the fire. It is better to find new friends and family, or even have no friends and family, than to be thrown alongside them in the fire. Now each of these things are placed in the proper perspective; pride, a degree, friends, family can all be great God-filled things, just like hands and feet, but if they are moving you away from Christ, they are not beneficial. We have to remove them.
6. You can’t stop loving others. Ever. – “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39 – It would be so much easier if Jesus never said this. The most radical, the most challenging, the hardest-lived statement is in these five words. Loving God is truly easy – He deserves honor and praise, He loved us first, and He has established things in past, present, and future for us that are greater than we can ever imagine. I would even dare say I am loving God more than myself on my greatest days of faith (which is not nearly enough). But loving my neighbor. C’mon. What have they done to deserve my love? My neighbor could bash my faith on social media. My neighbor could be making such poor choices with their money. My neighbor could be abusing their family. My neighbor could be lying to me, stealing from me, and badmouthing me all over town. My neighbor could physically spit in my face, beat me to the point of death, and hang me on a cross. And that’s when we realize, we are Christ’s neighbor. He have power to change our lives forever by living out the love of God. He was so purposeful in His love in God that He saved us all from eternal separation. By doing this, He has given us the power to peculiarly love people we don’t know, but even more so, people we know well. We have the same opportunity as Christ. We can do everything possible to love our neighbor into conviction and submission that comes from seeing, hearing, and feeling the Gospel message coming from God through us. Yes, this is the most peculiar of all, but as strange, odd and weird as it is, it’s the most beautiful, the most attractive, and the most fulfilling thing we could ever do on behalf of our Father in heaven who so much loves His peculiar people.
1 Corinthians 11
Transubstantiation. It’s a big word that means the belief that when communion bread and wine are taken, they literally become the body and blood of Christ. The Catholic church holds this view.
A friend of mine was sharing a story recently of a visit to a Catholic church in which he discussed this with the priest. The priest explained how it was because of this belief that the Catholic church began the tradition of priests placing the communion wafers directly into the mouths of parishioners.
You see, if the bread literally is the body of Christ, how awful if it were to fall and break on the floor. The lay people of the church did not want to bear this responsibility. They felt more secure in only having priests handle such a precious treasure. And thus began this now common tradition.
My friend went on to share how he had asked the priest how this played out when they administer the tiny morsel of communion bread to babies upon baptism. What if the baby spits the bread up?
The priest has to eat it.
Yup. Let’s just leave that there and read a couple of verses from our chapter in Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 11: 27-28
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
Have you ever felt that taking communion can become rote? Something you do without really thinking?
Clearly God cares that we take this exercise seriously. But can we agree that we should find a happy medium between mindlessly consuming the bread and the cup and having to eat baby spit-up?
What this passage encourages me to do, and I encourage you to do, is to be mindful during the communion service. How?
- Always always always take a moment to pray and examine your heart before the Great God of the universe.
- Humble yourself.
- Be quiet.
- Look around your church and ask God how you can build unity among the body (this instruction from Paul comes, after all, in a section of his letter instructing the Corinthian church on getting along at church).
- Think about the fact that the last time Jesus participated in this it was the night before he died for you. Maybe thank him for that.
- Realize that the next time Jesus participates in this he will have come again. Wow! Maybe ask him how you can get ready for that.
Yesterday, in Luke 21 Jesus was warning the disciples (and those who would follow) of persecution while encouraging them to stand up under it. And today, in Luke 22 Jesus himself is cast into a fierce storm of persecution. He will now be showing – not just telling – the disciples, his contemporaries, and all those who would come after him how to stand up under persecution.
But first, a private dinner with his closest disciples to commemorate the Passover – when God saved his people from slavery by the blood of the lamb. And very soon a new lamb would be sacrificed to save God’s people from slavery to sin. Jesus tells his disciples that he will not eat the Passover meal, or drink of the cup again, until the Kingdom of God comes. Communion services are a great reminder of this promise. At the dinner, he uses the opportunity to remind them once again the secret to great leadership – be a servant. Stop fighting over who is best…just serve.
I love how even though Jesus knew ahead of time that Peter would fail him, he had still prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. And even though Satan would have the opportunity to “sift all of you as wheat,” Jesus saw a future for Peter in which Peter would be using those painful experiences to help strengthen his brothers.
And then, in the garden while Jesus is pouring his heart out in prayer – his disciples are sleeping. I wonder how many times he would prod me and say, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” How much better would Peter – or I – stand Satan’s arrows if he – or I – were fully filled up with prayer rather than whatever feels good or most urgent at the moment?
Enter, Judas – and the chief priests and the guards and the great betrayal! And even in the midst of the hurt and personal persecution – Jesus gives healing as he restores the servant’s ear.
Early the next morning, Jesus is brought before the chief priests and elders and is questioned about who he is. Is he the Messiah?
Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied, “You say that I am.”
They didn’t expect the Son of God to have appeared as a baby in a manger. They didn’t expect the Son of God to have a rag-tag group of followers in the countryside. They didn’t expect the Son of God to be persecuted at their own hands. Beware of what you expect from the Son of God. Keep reading the gospels – and all of God’s Word to see who God really is, and who the Son of God is!