Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” -Matthew 16:24
The most popular box checked on any Facebook event we are invited to is “maybe.” The fact that “maybe” even exists on the page is probably a nod to our Millennial generation. We aren’t quite a hard “no” or “yes,” just somewhere in the middle, waiting for the next best offer. Unfortunately, this non-committal attitude harms our ability to create faithful, rooted community.
I’m not sure where it all started, but I have experienced the anxiety that comes when I commit to something. I might commit with great enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm turns into fear, which then gives way to dread or indifference. I fear missing out on something else or being thrown into a new environment, or just giving away too much of MY precious time (which usually consists of watching Parks and Rec in my pajamas). So I decide to keep my options open…which usually means a last minute “Thanks, but no thanks.”
We, as millennials, suffer from a collective attitude of ambivalence. We quickly give up on forming a community because it gets hard. When people start to rely on us as contributors to the group, we choose to passively participate—not wanting to fully give ourselves over to the requirements of meaningful relationships.
This is why I think many of us experience a sense of loneliness.
We have checked “maybe” too many times and have isolated ourselves from the rich community God desires for us to have.
Now Jesus, on the other hand, had rich relationships during his lifetime. Why?
Christ asked his disciples to be in community with him, to come follow him, but he didn’t give them the option to select “maybe,” or “when this busy time settles down,” or “after I take care of my family”—that last one actually happened in the Bible (Matt. 8:21). Ouch. Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 NLT). Bailey’s Translation: If you want to roll with me, you need to give up your comforts and your self-serving ways, and lay down your life to be in faithful community with me—even if that leads to death, death of anything you serve above me.
If you’re thinking, “this all sounds a bit harsh,” then you’re probably reading it the right way. Following Christ and learning from his example demonstrates that our friendships require us to move past our selfish “maybe” ways and push forward to a faithful commitment to your community.
Think about it this way:
When Christ asked his followers to come alongside him, they expected him to be king in the worldly sense: power, authority and prestige. The easy answer would be yes, of course I want to follow you to political freedom, tangible riches and personal glory. When Christ led them, instead, to a cross, to sacrifice, and eventually to death for some—following Him didn’t seem so glamorous anymore. In fact, it threatened their reputation, their personal safety, and their comfortable knowledge of what it meant to be associated with him. The disciples “glory” was different than what they thought—but it was better!
The same situation unfolds with our friendships today. All the surface-level “perks” that our friends promise seem great. Perhaps those friendships promise adventure, status, or popularity, but when you can no longer give them what they selfishly want, they walk away. They are only in it until the friendship asks them to sacrifice something.
What if we looked for the friends that take up their cross and follow Jesus faithfully? Sure, we might not see how they can benefit us—maybe they don’t have an exciting job or haven’t travelled to 27 countries.
But they demonstrate the kind of vision that Christ had in seeking friendship with his disciples: they‘re looking for riches beyond the surface.
These friends are marked by faithfulness.
Jonathan Holmes described this quality of friendship: “biblical friendships are not fleeting and easily disposable, but are characterized by true constancy, in defiance of the obstacles continually tossed at us by the effects of the fall.”
Our communities are thirsty for commitment. We just need one person to stand up and say, “I’m going to show up.” That catalyst for faithful communities can be you!
No more, “maybes,” only “yes,” to the group of friends Jesus calls us to.
Questions for your Community:
Where do you see yourself making excuses to the community events you are invited to?
Have an honest conversation with yourself and Jesus, and ask him where he wants you to commit this season.
Tell your community about your renewed commitment to your friendships. You will be a direct example of Christ’s commitment to lay down his life for his friends and inspire more faithful followers of Jesus to do the same.