…Loftiness is naturally an easy thing, and to feel oneself drawn to it is easy enough. But Christ who from on high draws all men to Himself does not take them out of the world where they live. and therefore to everyone who is drawn unto Him in the heights lowliness and humiliation come as a matter of course.
This Christ knows very well; and He knows also that the permission to begin with the easiest, or with what seems the easiest, is a necessary deceit in the process of education, and that the fact of it’s becoming harder and harder is in order that life may become in truth a probation and examination… A man has to be handled carefully, and hence it is only little by little that his task is made clear to him, little by little he is screwed tighter and tighter by the greater and greater and greater effort of probation and examination. So little by little is becomes for the individual a serious truth that to live is to be examined, and the highest examination is this: whether one will be in truth a Christian or not.
-Kierkegaard, Training in Christianity
There is an incongruence in the Christian faith. A tedious paradox in the pages of Scripture. Glaring mystery in Jesus Christ.
You see, he was a great man. His words are often remembered as grand insights into the human condition. His actions have inspired generations of nation-transforming work. His Church has been a cornerstone to many of the great societies of the western world.
A good man, a transforming message, a culture defining movement. Artists and musicians, writers and teachers as well as architects and politicians have looked to Him for inspiration and for life.
It is no bad thing to be inspired by his greatness, even by the great things done in his name. Yet for Kierkegaard this admiration was not the Christian life. A person may be drawn to a high ideal, a beautiful truth or a liberating knowledge but a person is not drawn to a crucified messiah. A story with a dead hero is a tragedy. Or, worse still, a mockery of all that is right and good.
Yet this is the Christian story. The mockery and rejection of the highest good in this world is the passion of Jesus Christ. It is the essence of our faith and the core of our worldview.
This is the mystery of Christ: He was God, yet he was despised and rejected and murdered by those whom he loved.
Oftentimes we know this at first and we dismiss it as a bygone event, preparing ourselves to enjoy the good life because Jesus bought it for us. Yet what is the cross if not an invitation? A terrible price for everlasting life. And one we do not see in the beginning.
Is is really necessary for us to be blinded to this terrifying truth? The awful reality that the walk will grow harder and harder and our shame and humiliation will be compounded year upon year until our last breath? Must this be hidden from us, for a time?
It might have been seven or eight years ago that I first began to explore the faith. I was captivated by the vast goodness of God in Christ, enamoured by the holy lives of those I had met. Their love was liberating.
I could not have anticipated, in those days of my youth, just how hard following Jesus would be.
For the Christian, all of life is an examination. It is a test. Will you be a Christian? In truth? By this I don’t suppose Kierkegaard means that one must consistently be like Jesus in order to pass. It seems more to test of whether one will believe, and act upon, the notion that we are forgiven sinners destined for eternal life with God. Therefore do we treasure him here? Do we rejoice in his forgiveness? Shall we live this life as though it is all loss, as though the best is always yet to come?
Will Christ define my reality?
Will I, in truth, be a Christian?
This is the hard task I must devote myself to. This is the daily reality of choosing to disbelieve that this world can provide for my every need, or even that I can provide for my every need, and instead thanking God that he is my provider. Indeed, thanking him that he is my provision.
It’s never going to get any better than this.