As part of a Bible study on discipleship, our pastor assigned the book The Trouble with Jesus by Joseph M. Stowell, author, past president of the Moody Bible Institute and the current Teaching Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel.

He begins his book by reflecting on the post 9/11 Chicago Leadership Prayer Breakfast, an event he has attended faithfully for years. A Roman Catholic priest, a woman rabbi, a mainline Protestant minister, and a representative of Islam offering prayer to Allah, led a series of prayers in which the name of Jesus was not once mentioned. Stowell was floored. He writes, “It is difficult to include One who has claimed to be the only way to God when a diversity of paths to God is being celebrated.” [1]

Jesus presents a problem in the 21st century. We can publicly call upon God and get away with it (especially when our world is crumbling around us) because most people can relate to God, or at least a nebulous “a higher power.” But Jesus is a scandal. He is divisive and admitted as much. From Luke 12:51: “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two and two against three.” (NKJV)

And Jesus is demanding. In Luke 9:57-62, we read of a young man who said he wanted to follow Jesus but needed to bury his father first. Jesus’ response did not mean we should not mourn our dead but rather that He must come first in our lives. Verse 62 reads: “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” (NKJV)

One can choose to commit to Jesus, or instead embrace a sort of “world religion” concept, populated with good deeds, fairness to all and a well-meaning nonjudgmental stance that applauds all religions as being equal.  The “problem” with Jesus is that He is not optional and the decision to believe in Him has eternal consequences, even if we don’t think that is particularly “fair.”

Choices are fine for many areas of life, but Jesus shares the menu with no one.

[1]  Joseph M. Stowell, The Trouble with Jesus ( Moody Publishers, Chicago 2003) p.14