It’s a hard question to wrestle with: Does being a Christian make life easier or more difficult?
Many would say it makes life easier. After all, as Christians we have the comfort of knowing Jesus. We have accepted his grace, and, when Jesus died for us on the cross, he lifted our burdens, be they of anguish, anger, or sin, from our shoulders and placed them on his own.
Others would say it makes life more difficult. As Christians, we are called to take the path less travelled. We have committed ourselves to living lives worthy of the calling that we have received. Anyone who has tried to love their enemy knows that that is not an easy thing to do. It is so much easier to approach our enemies with clenched fists than with open arms. But Christ has commissioned us to be ambassadors of his love.
As dunker punks, we should accept the truth of both of these viewpoints. First and foremost, as radical followers of Jesus, as servants of Jesus who obediently follow his example and disregard the influence of anything to the contrary, we must accept that this lifestyle is more challenging than any other lifestyle.
Remember our brothers and sisters of the EYN in Nigeria. Every day they experience tests and trials of their faith far more severe than anything we in the Church of the Brethren in the United States could even imagine. Yet again and again they make the difficult decision to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, to love their enemies and pursue a peaceful conclusion to their suffering.
“Pacifism” is not the same thing as “passivism.” Nonviolence is far more than just not being violent. It is an active, gut-wrenchingly difficult decision.
Or remember our spiritual ancestors, the original dunker punks. Those eight individuals stood up in the face of legal consequence, even of death, and decided that they must listen to Jesus. They decided that they had to live radical, nonconformist lives, that went against what their culture told them about how to live, and listened only to how Jesus told them to live.
At dunkerpunks.com, we talk a lot about peace and enemy-love, because that was an central aspect of Jesus’ teachings. But there are other steps we must take to truly follow Jesus. It’s not just the big things, like resisting acts of war, that we must do to be faithful followers of Jesus. To truly call ourselves dunker punks, we must live our everyday lives and make all of our decisions based on what Jesus would have us do.
Small gestures, like refusing to buy clothes made in sweatshops, like recycling and reducing our energy consumption, like going out of our way to feed the hungry, to clothe and shelter the homeless, to work towards the healing of the sick, and to love and work with those who have wronged us, or only shopping at stores that value the dignity of their employees more than their bottom-line, or better yet to consume less, so we have room to give more, or to pray earnestly and sincerely for a better world, and then listen to Jesus when he shows us how to make that world a reality, these are all radical decisions. And they are difficult.
Luckily, when we find the clarity to follow Jesus by studying and praying, these decisions become easier. Remember the Sermon on the Mount? If we want to learn how to live like Jesus, there is perhaps no better passage to study, so much so that Jarrod McKenna, the activist who challenged the Church of the Brethren to embrace their Dunker Punk heritage, reccomends that everyone who wants to live as radical followers of Jesus memorize. At the very end of the Sermon, Jesus makes an analogy that many of us recognize:
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise person who built their house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish person who built their house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” – Matthew 7:24-27
The decisions we have to make to live like Jesus are not easy. They go against everything our culture expects us to do. But when we ground these decisions in Jesus, by studying and praying for clarity, by looking to his example, and by remembering that as a human being Jesus came and did all of these things, we can find the faith and strength to keep going. But just because Jesus is a source of comfort does not give us the right to sit on hands and get comfortable. He calls us to walk, better yet run, on the road he has set out for us.
So read the words of Jesus. Study his love, so you can better emulate it. Pray for guidance, for inspiration, and for creativity. The decisions and actions that Jesus calls us to make are not easy. They aren’t supposed to be. Living a radically obedient lifestyle is the most difficult way to live. But Jesus makes it easier to do the most difficult things.