The Hard Sayings of Jesus

If Jesus is our model, we must follow him with bravery and courage in our day-to-day interactions. Take risks. Mess up. Say the wrong thing and then go back for a redo.  Otherwise, we’ll languish in the backwaters of boredom doing nothing but rehashing weather and sports.

If we’re going to follow Jesus, we need to learn to walk on the wild side of topics. Go where we haven’t gone before.  It requires faith to step into the unknown, into risky conversations that can (and sometimes do) go bad.  Conversations that cause your heart to explode when you’re in the middle of them.  When you’re left emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted after they’re over.

Sound fun?  You might be thinking, No, it doesn’t.  It sounds horrible.  And you might be right.  Faith is spelled r-i-s-k.  And, the thing with risk is that it’s risky.  

But, before digging into what it really means to be brave in our conversations, I have to clarify something.  Pointing out the hard sayings of Jesus is not usually my thing.  People such as the Westboro Baptists, the Ku Klux Klan, the Crusaders of the Middle ages, and so many other groups have twisted the words of Jesus and Scripture to justify some really, really horrible stuff.  These words have been terribly misused over the centuries, and I’m so sorry for that.

Jesus does not model tearing people apart whenever we feel like it.  By he does model how to be bold in our speech, with love.  So to follow Jesus’ example and avoid falling into the trap of misusing God’s Word, let’s note three very important methods for understanding Scripture:

  1. We interpret what might be confusing in light of what’s clear.
  2. We interpret the minority of verses through the lens of the majority.
  3. We recognize context.

In light of these three methods, I think it’s safe to say this:

  1. Jesus’ message was one of light, love, peace, joy and invitation.  He wanted and still wants everyone to believe in and follow him.
  2. The vast majority of the Gospels involves Jesus healing the hurting and setting people free, not keeping people out.
  3. The context of Jesus’ hard sayings is almost exclusively aimed at those in power, those who abused their power, and those who distorted or stood against this new Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed.

It’s therefore quite safe to say that Jesus’ hard words were for a very specific few in a very specific context.  We should never assume we can use such language at will just because Jesus did.  Instead, we should look at the heart behind the words.  The motives behind the bravery.  It was always about the person.  About what was going to wake them up, point them to God, draw them into the wild and beautiful Kingdom.  Bravery isn’t bravery if your ego and need to be right get in the way.  True bravery is bold love.  True bravery is being like Jesus.


This excerpt was taken from Carl’s book, 42 Seconds: The Jesus Model for Everyday Interactions, which released on April 17, 2018.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash