It’s a simple lesson—so simple that I should be able to remember it from one event to the next. It’s a lesson I actually learned years ago at Annual Conference and yet, it seems I always have to re-learn it when I’m in a big crowd event (like Annual Conference, a concert, or even a District event.
If you sit near the middle of an event, and want to talk to a friend seated near the front, you must make your way forward BEFORE hearing “We’re going to have a 15-minute intermission.” If you don’t make your move before those words, you will find yourself fighting against a tide of humanity with its collective radar set on the bathrooms and the coffee pot!
I still recall and Annual Conference I attended, where, during the three-day gathering, there were some very sensitive issues addressed. Feathers were ruffled, toes were stepped on, feelings were hurt and sometimes tempers flared. The Bishop reminded us to “vote our conscience and to speak our minds—not blindly follow another into carbon-copy, cut-and-dried decisions.
It is hard to “swim against the current.” It is not easy to “just say ‘No” when everyone else is saying “Yes!” It isn’t popular to stand up and voice your opinion when it goes against the grain of those you admire and respect. I it not comfortable to speak you mind, to declare what you believe, when the world around you has decided to play both deaf and dumb.
But, being a Christian has never been easy. As early as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began to spell out how “different” His followers were expected to be.
Following Jesus Christ has not changed that much in two centuries. Life the first century disciples, we often find ourselves swimming against the main force of the current. Now, as in first century Israel, there are at least three “currents” that we often must fight against if we hope to be faithful followers of the Son of God.
Current of Ego
We have to swim against the current of our own egos. Past generations born in this country have been dubbed “Me Generations.” In the competitive world of business, young executives are reminded of the need to be aggressive in their careers and ignore those who may get stepped on or lost in the shuffle. The big idea proposed by President John F. Kennedy when he declard, “As not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” seems to have been absorbed by a self-centered and selfish “What’s in it for me?” mindset.
Elijah the prophet fell into this “me” mentality. Rather than aggressively standing up for the Lord, Elijah ran for his life at a rumor of being sought out to kill. More than that, he holed up in a cave and decided to have a “pity party.” Feeling abandoned and rejected by God, Elijah began to wonder, “Here I am, God, going out on a limb for You. Am I the only one is Israel who gives a rap that Your people have turned aside to false gods? What good it is that I defend Your honor? All it’s gotten me is a price on my head!”
We are not all that different. We are willing to join the church, attend worship on Sunday, maybe even come to Sunday School or help with special events. But if we are asked to take on a leadership position, asked to take a stand for truth and justice, are confronted with the possibility of ridicule or persecution, do we “swim against the current” or do we, like Elijah, carefully protect ourselves by retreating to a cave?
Current of Our Senses
To be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ might require us to swim against the current of our senses. In Genesis 3:6, Eve surrendered to the Tempter because what she saw was “tempting to the eyes.” It looked good. And it sounded even better—“You will be like God.” We are often tempted to go against what we KNOW to be right with sayings like, “Everybody’s going it,” or “just this one time—who’s going to find out?”
Judas Iscariot knew who Jesus was. He had heard the teachings and saw the miracles. But he had visions of grandeur. Jesus kept talking about a coming Kingdom and Judas wanted a position of authority in it. By going to the authorities, he thought he might force the Master into the role of king and he would become His right-hand man. Plus, the extra money paid to him for the information would be helpful to the poor disciples. Although Judas’ greed and lust for power and money led to our salvation, it led to his downfall.
Current of Popular Opinion
Most of us don’t like to be different from our friends. We all want to be liked, admired, respected. Those who stand out from the crowd, who are “different” somehow are often labeled and ridiculed or left out. We all have the same basic need to be accepted and fit in and we avoid being different. But God told us to be different.
Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a Holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9 KJV
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are CALLED to be different! God has set us apart from everyone else and has labeled us as His own. He has dared us to be distinct from everyone else by swimming against the current of ego and our senses and even popular opinion.
Being a follower of Jesus is never easy. It often means trying to stem the tide of evil and self-centeredness that threatens to be overwhelming, taking a stand when the rest of the world would prefer to take a seat, or being the voice of the forgotten.
As a Christian, you may feel alone in your toe-to-toe battle with the forces of evil. You may only hear the sound of your own voice in the struggle against injustice, oppression, inequality and abuse. Like Elijah, you may be convinced that you are the only one left who cares whether or not good prevails. You may feel like the whole world is against you. But hold on, stand fast and don’t give up! God has promised you are not alone in your struggle. There are others. And you will see them if you just keep swimming against the current.