Making the Sacrifice: Following Jesus in a Hostile World
by Jessica E. Thomas | November 8, 2020
When I was baptized in 1995, I was naïve about many aspects of Christianity. There was so much Christian doctrine I didn’t understand. I did know this: I was clinically depressed, and I felt hopeless.
However, when I went to church each Sunday and listened to the pastor talk about Jesus, I felt peace. For that hour and a half church service, my depression lifted.
Keep in mind, prior to this I believed in God, but had concocted a New Age, God is in all, God is love religion for myself based on books I’d read like Embraced by the Light by Betty J. Eadie and Hands of Light by Barbara Ann Brennan.
The philosophies espoused in both books, which include spiritual concepts that are very mainstream today, quickly left me spiritually bankrupt. I knew something was wrong internally, but I didn’t know what.
When I went to church, the gaping hole in my spirit was mysteriously filled. I felt whole. I felt welcomed. I felt at peace.
When a phenomenon so powerful occurs in one’s life, a reasonable person takes notice. I now know Jesus was working through the pastor, the believers in the church, and through the Bible to make Himself known to me. He was speaking supernaturally through my murky clouds of depression, reaching out, and inviting me to respond.
And I did respond, thank the Lord. I agreed to be baptized and committed myself to learning about this mysterious figure named Jesus Christ.
Because of my limited knowledge of the Bible, Jesus was very much a mystery to me, but in return for those minutes of reprieve every Sunday morning, I decided to follow Him and learn about Him for the rest of my life.
But I was not entirely clueless. I knew certain Christian teachings went against mainstream thought. I knew that following Him would put me at odds with friends and with the world in general.
Commonly accepted academic thought (I was in college at the time so I was in the thick of it) was that truth is relative, but I knew Christianity was full of absolutes. The most daunting absolute of all was that Jesus is the only way to heaven and that those who don’t accept Him will go to hell.
I accepted Jesus despite not wanting this absolute to be true. I wanted alternate paths. Wasn’t it hateful to say there was one way and one way only? Wasn’t the Christian point of view intolerant of every other belief system on the planet?
I find it interesting that in the marketplace of ideas, primarily social media, it’s assumed Christians are flippant about the truths we hold dear, as if we wield them as bludgeoning tools. As if we use them to prop ourselves up to make us feel better than others.
What people don’t see are the decades many of us spend wrestling with the truths of the Bible.
Why does God say no sex before marriage?
Why are we all punished for Adam’s sin?
Why does God allow evil?
Why does God say marriage is between a man and a woman?
Why does Paul affirm that homosexuality is a sin?
Why do people who don’t accept Jesus go to hell?
Why is there a hell?
If these aren’t tough questions, I don’t know what are. And many Christians, including myself, wrestle with them.
We have sex before marriage because we don’t understand God’s prohibition.
We question our own sexuality.
We treat others’ salvation casually. Instead of talking about Jesus we shy away from it, only to potentially regret it for the rest of our lives.
Being a Christian isn’t easy. Choosing to be baptized is not a simple matter. Trusting that God has our best interests in mind when he provides the template for holy living doesn’t always come naturally.
In America we are not physically persecuted. The persecution happens on the walls of social media.
We are judged whenever we affirm the absolutes of our faith. We are deemed intolerant. Cruel. Hateful.
We are bombarded on all sides by people who assume they knows us simply by our title. We risk being cancelled for expressing our beliefs. We’re called bigots by people who were once our friends.
For those who are sensitive, who are afraid of making others angry, who want to please others, this becomes a serious hindrance to living out our faith. Or worse, it prevents non-believers from taking a leap of faith and accepting Christ.
This isn’t a whine session. Jesus warns us that we will be hated for following Him. Once again, the Bible accurately predicts human behavior.
My first purpose for writing this is to give non-believers a peek into the mind and heart of a Christian. There are always bad apples in the bunch, but most of us experience very real pain at the thought of just one person going to hell. This isn’t a truth that we relish or celebrate, it’s one that grieves us and humbles us.
Despite knowing that people we love may go to hell, we can’t turn our back on Jesus. We choose Him over our loved ones because he is so real, so refreshing, so trustworthy, so rejuvenating, so beautiful, so holy, so loving, so life giving and life preserving that we want nothing else.
We want others to have what we have. Eternal assurance. Eternal safety. Eternal love.
This is the Christian life.
We have peace even while wrestling with the hard truths. Constant renewal despite the pain that the world brings.
But the peace and the renewal and the assurance comes with a sacrifice. We have to sacrifice our notions of what is right and wrong and accept that God knows better.
My second purpose in writing this is to invite you, the reader. If you are ready to sacrifice, talk to a pastor, talk to me, read the Bible. Make a decision. Now. Before it’s too late.
Jessica E. Thomas graduated summa cum laude with Academic Honors in Writing from Ball State University, receiving a Bachelor of Science in English and a Minor in Creative Writing. She began her professional career in marketing at a large Indianapolis law firm. Since transitioning to Information Technology in 2001, she has worked in the pharmaceutical, student loan, and finance industries as a computer programmer, systems analyst, Web developer, and technical writer. She has authored two novels, three novellas, a poetry collection, a short story collection, and a children’s book.