If It Were Easy, Everyone Would Do It
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" (John 6:60)
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
That was the advice I received from a veteran marathoner the day before I ran my first marathon. As I was checking in, I struck up a conversation with a guy twice my age. I don’t remember how many marathons he had run, but it was quite a few more than my zero, so I asked him what to expect. He said, “Expect it to hurt. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.”
I felt I was prepared. I had done my long runs. I had a reasonable finish time for a goal. And all went well at first. I was feeling good until around mile 20. Then everything was not good. For the next 6 miles, every step was a struggle, and my legs were so sore, the next day I could barely walk. I didn’t think it would be easy. I also didn’t think it would be THAT hard.
Sometimes we think being a Christian ought to be easy. It’s all, “Amazing Grace,” and “Jesus Loves Me.” “Though I walk through the darkest valley, God is with me.” Our faith should feel good. It shouldn’t feel like the last six miles of a marathon.
In the passage above from John, Jesus had been teaching his disciples about what we know as the sacrament of communion. Jesus said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” That teaching is difficult, even for us today.
But there are other difficult teachings, too, like love your enemy and turn the other cheek. Easier said than done. How about go, sell all you have, give to the poor, and come follow me? That’s a toughy. Or do not judge others. I catch myself breaking that one almost daily. To take our discipleship seriously means to grapple with some of Jesus’ difficult teachings.
John’s gospel goes on to say that many followers turned away from Jesus because his teachings were too difficult. When Jesus asked the twelve disciples if they were going to turn away, Peter said no, “You have the words to eternal life.”
Yes, some of Jesus’ teachings are difficult. But when we practice discipleship, we get a glimpse of that beloved community of God Jesus promised. In those moments we realize following Jesus, though difficult, is worth it.
I did finish that first marathon, difficult as it was. And after I recovered and could walk normally again, I started training for my next marathon, committed to do better, and knowing that if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.