This post comes to us from a new Rooted contributor, Sandra Hagood. Sandra is an attorney, parent, and outstanding youth Sunday school teacher in San Diego, CA. She leads off our series, Tough Stuff, with this excellent piece about teaching absolute truth.
Recently, I was talking with a college-aged friend who was expressing intense anxiety that a cherished career goal of his may never come to pass. I asked him which he would choose between obtaining this goal and following Jesus. I only asked him the question because I thought he would easily answer that he would rather follow Jesus, and I was intending to suggest that we all have to choose what we want the most, pursue it, and pray that the rest will follow.
He hesitated, and then looked at me horror stricken and said he wasn’t sure. He clearly expected me to chew him out or tell him what a fool he was. But I told him that every once in awhile, I feel like, if I could, I would walk away, and that apparently, I’m not alone in that sentiment. Then we talked about one of my favorite Bible passages:
After this [Jesus’ explaining that to have eternal life, one must feed on Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood], many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:66-69
There’s more than one way to read Peter’s answer, but I think it’s important that Peter did not say, “But Lord, why would we want to go anywhere else when this is so much fun?” It seems to me that it’s implied in Peter’s answer that Peter would go away if he could, or at least that he’d been tempted to consider it.
Close to thirty years ago, when I was in high school and had been a Christian about two years, I was struggling to keep up with the demands of my performance-based understanding of the Gospel. Even though I was madly in love with Jesus, I remember thinking that I was going to have to give up Christianity because it was just too hard and I couldn’t do it. I felt like I was looking into a terrible abyss. But I realized almost the next instant that the reason that I could not walk away from Christianity was that it was true.
I have returned to that moment several times in the last thirty years. Thanks be to God, I understand much better now what it means that His yoke is easy and His burden is light, but I still sometimes think for a moment that I would prefer to have no one to answer to. (Of course, in my right mind, I absolutely cannot imagine the unbearable wasteland that life without Jesus would be.)
I take great comfort in two things. First, the above passage in John shows me that Jesus understands that we are human and He does not expect us to be spiritual robots. He realizes that, no matter how much we love Him, serving Him is costly (Luke 14:28), and that, even though it’s really a “no brainer,” it seems like a hard decision to us. But even more, I am greatly encouraged that even when I cannot hold onto the Truth, the Truth holds on to me. As Peter said, Jesus has the words of eternal life. I think once you have tasted those words, you cannot walk away anymore than a thirsty man could walk away from water in the desert.
In the present climate of moral relativity, many students are conditioned to label those claiming the absolute truth of Christianity- or any worldview- as intolerant, immoral, and close-minded. The absolute value of the postmodern world is tolerance. However, knowing that the “words of eternal life” are, in fact, True yields an amazing comfort to students in the long run.