“But whoever endures to the end will be saved.”
In today’s reading from Matthew, we see a tough, even radical Jesus warning us about the courage it might take to pay what German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “the cost of discipleship.” Bonhoeffer’s words were personally prophetic since the Nazis eventually executed him for actions stemming from his beliefs.
As I sit in my pleasant Omaha home writing this, I am thinking about how little believing in Christ costs most of us. Even when some of our values conflict with those of friends, at worst we’ll have a heated debate followed by the possible chilling of the relationship. It’s a far cry from being scourged or hauled into court. So what does today’s Gospel say to us? I’m focusing on the line about enduring to the end to be saved. It calls us to ask how to build the spiritual endurance to live as a serious Christian.
Every gym rat knows that you start an endurance program by slowly increasing the exercise you have been doing. You aren’t likely to stick with anything else. That might also be a good approach to building up our spiritual endurance. What’s our current base line? Do we just show up at church fairly regularly? Do we practice any of the spiritual or corporal works of mercy or just throw our loose change in a bell ringer’s kettle at Christmas? Do we pray regularly?
Maybe we can start increasing our strength by adding just one small practice to our daily routine such as praying every morning or evening. When that has become a habit, we might branch out to something else such as volunteering once a week for a worthy cause.Just as exercisers chart their progress, keep track of what you are doing and the results. You might find them even more satisfying than gradually doubling the distance you can go on that treadmill at the gym!
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