I'll never forget how much my heart was pounding in my chest as Brenda and I walked through the sand on a San Diego beach for a sunset picnic. Of course, I wasn't there for the food or the sunset; I was there for the girl -- and I intended to propose marriage to here there and then.
I planned the whole thing out: Waterford Crystal glasses, chocolate covered strawberries, and a perfectly timed sunset. Looking back, I probably looked like the Captain of the Cheeseball Express. When I popped the question, I was so nervous I didn't even hear her answer. Come to find out, I had nothing to fear. She had already bought her wedding dress a few months before!
Why are guys willing to take such risks in spite of the possibility of rejection?
And it's the same reason why God took the risk of sending Jesus for us. Love.
In John 6:53-69, we read a story about Jesus teaching many of his followers in the synagogue in Caperaum. He was delivering a message that was pretty difficult for people to hear, and many said, "This is too much. Who can accept it?" Jesus turned to his remaining disciples and asked if his message was too offensive for them. You see, he knew it would be, even going so far as to call himself a stumbling block.
He expected rejection, but that's been God's experience with us through history. His message is never widely accepted. There are many reasons why people might reject Jesus, but in this instance, we see that many of his hearers were just plain offended with what he was saying.
Here's what I take away from this story:
1] Jesus offers himself as the Way to restoration with God and eternal life. He didn't seem willing to change his message to win over more followers, but he was willing to risk rejection to bring us life. Love does that.
2] The Way of Jesus involves a willful, voluntary choice to accept or reject him. Our relationship with God has always been voluntary and willful. Why? Can there be any love in forced relationship and obedience?
3] We should count the cost of choosing Christ. At the end of our scripture, Jesus asked his remaining followers this question: "Do you also want to leave?" I love Peter's response! He replied, "Where would we go? You have the words of eternal life!" They chose to stick with Jesus. For us, following Christ is also a willful, voluntary choice. For this reason, we don't baptize infants. We believe a commitment to Christ must be a person's choice, not a choice enacted upon them by parents at birth. We call people into a voluntary and willful decision to follow Jesus Christ.
Everywhere Jesus went, he gave people the same choice. Most rejected his claims or disputed them. That continues today...and that's OK. Isaiah said he would be despised and rejected by men, but that didn't stop him. He was driven by God's great love for humanity, and he risked rejection to get us there.
The best things in my life have come through risky love: my marriage to Brenda and my relationship with Jesus.