A few years ago we decided to renovate our kitchen and family room. As the work began we noticed a slight warping in the kitchen floor. We went under the house to see if we could diagnose the problem. Sure enough, we found a large support beam with a crack running through it. A few of the joists where the kitchen floor sits were warped. At that point the contractor warned us: “When there are problems in the foundation or near it the repair will often identify troubles in other places throughout the house.”
We did not like these surprises. They meant more money would be needed-but we were glad the cracks and the problems were found. It’s better in the long run to build or renovate a house properly than it is to try and go back and fix mistakes long after they have been made.
Jesus knows this. He told a parable about a wise man and a foolish man. The wise man built his house on rock. The foolish man built his house on sand. The foolish man may have saved some money and time and effort up front but in the long run, when the rains came, his costs exploded.
Jesus tells this little story after delivering the Sermon on the Mount. The sermon is very challenging. Jesus gives instructions like these, “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other also. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” If you’ve tried to live by his teachings you already know they are not easy to follow. Ignoring them would be much easier. Jesus would agree but he’d also say, “It’s also much easier to build your house on the sand than it is to build on the rock but in the long run…”
The church wasn’t established to make life easier but to challenge us to live our lives in a way that makes peace possible. William Sloan Coffin, the great old preacher from Riverside Church, helps to make this clear: “I believe Christianity is a world view that undergirds all progressive thought and action. The Christian Church doesn’t have a social ethic as much as it is a social ethic…what is so heartbreaking is that in a world of pain crying out for change, so many American churches today are basically down to management and therapy.”
In a world that continues to explode in violence, I pray that the church will find the courage to pray and preach for peace.
Grace and peace to you,