My friend Stephanie told me something really interesting last week. When she was studying the history and canonization of the Scriptures in seminary, they discussed the discrepancies in Biblical texts throughout history. She explained that errors in copying and misinterpretation of original texts have led to discrepancies that often affect the meaning of a text. In order to figure out which is more accurate, she was taught to look at both interpretations and choose the one that is harder to understand. A scribe, considering his devotion to copying the Scriptures as his life's work, presumably had good intentions. So if he is relying on his own understanding, he is going to write down the most reasonable text. (PLEASE don't read that statement and start debating the accuracy of Scripture here. The Internet is full of places to have such debates, and this is not a topic I wish to pursue with the world at large.) Stephanie's point was this: The harder concept is less likely to be fabricated, because it's human nature to want to make a concept less confusing. Left to our own devices, we will always choose the easier thing. So the harder thing is usually from God.
I left my lunch with Stephanie mulling over the concept of choosing the harder thing. Anyone who has spent half an hour with me in the past year has probably heard me say, "The world is just so small in Alabama." I have been utterly frustrated by a culture of hostility and rigid social and religious expectations. But, as Brian pointed out earlier today, that frustration can lead to a plank and sawdust paradox (see Matthew 7:3-5). Hostility breeds hostility; prejudice breeds prejudice. I see the injustices around me, and my rebellion is to treat those with power unjustly. I see the guilt birthed from rigid religious expectations, and in response I apply my own set of expectations to the religious. In short, I become that which I hate in other people. In response to my surroundings, I become a snob, I love neither my neighbors nor my enemies, and, couched in my own version of moral superiority, I am no different from the culture I am rebelling against.
The harder thing for me right now is to love other Christians. The harder thing is not to judge the judgers, to mock the mockers, to berate the ignorant. The harder thing is to love people who don't love me, and who refuse to love the people that I love.
It isn't cool to be humble. It sucks to lay down my own agenda, especially when I believe it to be a good and noble agenda, for the sake of loving and serving others, particularly people that I don't like. But when I look at the life of Jesus, this is what I see him doing. And following Christ means choosing the harder thing.