Jesus condemns the cities – Matthew 15.10-20
I find this passage strangely comforting. Even that great prophet John the Baptist, even Jesus himself, was criticised for the way he behaved, the way he spoke, the way he lived, by those who simply didn’t want to hear his message. With those examples before me, perhaps I’m not doing so badly at this ministry thing!
The gospel is good news, but it isn’t necessarily easy news. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, but not always comfortable. Jesus saves, but he also disturbs. We are not called to preach what people want to hear, but what they need to hear – the truth that will set us free. God was never supposed to be nice. God is, after all, far greater than that.
The kingdom Jesus proclaims sometimes seems anything but reassuring. “The last shall be first” doesn’t sound like such great news if you’re near the front of the queue. “Sell all you have and give to the poor” is a tall order when you’re trying to secure your family’s financial future. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” doesn’t always sound like such a blessing.
But if the kingdom doesn’t always sound cosy and comfortable, perhaps that is because we have become too comfortable with the ways of the world we live in, too accepting of things as “inevitable” which fly in the face of God’s kingdom values, of peace, justice, freedom, hope, love.
And that acceptance, that willingness to live with a non-kingdom world view, makes us lazy about doing God’s kingdom work. Perhaps we know something isn’t right, isn’t part of God’s way of living, but challenging or changing it seems too hard or too dangerous.
But, in the words of the song, “nobody said it was easy”, and God’s kingdom is always worth the effort and worth the risk. Only if we are willing to work for God’s kingdom as well as to preach it can we honestly pray “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”