One of the mysteries of church life is that ‘some people will only go so far before they fall off and go away.’ This mystery is based on the fact that ‘the counter-cultural claims of the Gospel are simply too much for most people,’ especially in a self-serving culture. A self-serving culture promotes the science of Church Growth and Church Management founded on ensuring that people have a good experience and information without inner renewal and transformation. The world and the church are increasingly becoming a self-serving culture, hence following and obeying Jesus’ doctrine demands ‘signing on to some values that push deeply against the culture.’ For example, Jesus asks that we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. Jesus promises us eternal life, the world is promoting heaven on earth therefore, offence will always come in a self-serving culture for the true followers of Jesus Christ. The world is between people who know they cannot live without Jesus and others who think they do not need Jesus hence, our need for eternal life ONLY in Jesus Christ is increasingly becoming for some a ‘hard teaching and difficult to accept.’ Jesus gave truth, people took offence. Today, many are looking for easy words that will bolster their self-esteem, Jesus’ doctrines put an end to self in full dependence on God’s grace through the Holy Spirit.
In John chapter 6 verse 60, we read that “when many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” Jesus was rejected. In verse 66, John said, “Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him,” and this resonate in the way that the Israelite had responded to Moses after the Exodus. The metaphors in Jesus’ discourse in relation to food -‘the bread of life,’ as doctrine, ‘and of eating and drinking, to signify believing might be easy to understand for the disciples. However, many of the disciples were unable to comprehend what Jesus mean by ‘his flesh, they took the whole literally, and were so offended at the thought of eating his flesh and drinking his blood.’ The reflection is that Jesus’ doctrines like New Birth, his Second Coming, Heaven and Hell, the wages of sin among others are hard sayings, doctrines difficult to believe, ‘hard indeed it must appeared, as it does still appear, to the children of the world, but sweet to the children of God.’ When Jesus’s words are taken literally, just as the disciples were offended at the thought of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, many are offended today about preaching, for example that they will stand before Jesus Christ as judge and be rewarded for what they have done (Mt 16:27). Such doctrine to a self-serving culture is absurd and unreasonable.
Many today are turning away and stopping following Jesus in truth and spirit basically because of what Jesus commands his followers to do. In John 6, after others have departed, Jesus asked the 12 who remain a surprising question, “Do you also wish to go away?” Peter’s response to Jesus’ question provides us a helpful reflection in this age of self-serving culture. Peter answers Jesus, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:67-69). Like many who turned away from Jesus, we can be offended and stop following Jesus if our attraction to following him is simply self-serving. Following Jesus goes beyond the benefits of his fellowship. Following Jesus calls us to become adherence of his words and this resonates with what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “the cost of discipleship.” In an age of self-serving culture, many are walking away from Jesus and are happy to follow the popular culture without any clue to where else they might find life eternal. Jesus is the source of true life. This may be a hard saying and beyond human process. In a self-serving culture, practice of religion will be consumer indulgent shaped by the human pleasure principle, ‘if it feels good do it.’ In contrast, Jesus’ doctrines demands from his disciples including you and I, a ‘profound inner transformation and not merely offering customer service.’ The truth is that Jesus’ doctrines are not hard to understand but they are hard on our ego, on our pride, and on our self-serving easy entertaining way of life with no lasting joy and value. To follow Jesus requires time, repentance from sin, and commitment to grow and walk with Christ as a constant companion and friend.