A seasoned pastor tells a story of an artist he once knew when they were younger who had a deep mistrust of Christians due to the way Hitler and the Nazi’s influenced and used them during WWII. Although numerous Christians deflected, most notably a man named, Bonhoeffer, many sadly did not.
As a result, this artist was highly skeptical and critical of Christians. However, the young pastor befriended the man through their mutual interest in art, and in time, the artist offered to paint a portrait of the pastor. Honored and flattered by the gesture, the young student pastor agreed.
Looking over the artist’s shoulder one day, his wife mentioned how the painting looked nothing like the young pastor, but rather a gaunt, lifeless, hollow eyed, ghostly figure.
The artist said he wanted to reflect how his pastor friend will look many years later after his religion “squeezed all the compassion and mercy out of him”.
This young pastor, named Eugene Peterson, writes about this in his book, Running with the Horses, and the impact it had in him.
He shares how he kept that painting in his closet as a reminder of what he might become if he ever drifted from or denied a personal faith in a merciful God.
Likewise, Jesus reminds us in Luke 14:33 that unless we are willing and ready to give up everything for Him, we cannot be His disciple.
For if we are not “all in” for Christ the temptation to love our possessions, our power, our positions, our comforts, our rituals, and our reputations, can become more important to us than our relationship with Jesus Christ. This can lead us to follow man, and our own selfish natures, more than Christ, and as such, we distort and disfigure our true calling.
As such, we risk becoming like the Pharisees, and other past and current examples of people who possess plenty of religion, and ritual, but lack any heart transformation made possible by a complete surrender to Jesus Christ.
It causes a desire for our will, rather than His to be done. For only through an intimate relationship with our Maker can we become all we were created to be.