Discipleship: “Side-effects may include…”

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As we all know, beer makers have the best commercials on TV. However, I think ads for prescription medications are almost as amusing at times, even though they’re not intended to be. Consider a certain “erectile dysfunction” drug commercial with a man & woman in separate bath tubs, watching the sunset. Now, I’m not a doctor, but in the commercial, I don’t think “erectile dysfunction” is the big impediment to having “marital relations” – I think it’s the fact that they’re in separate bath tubs! [I can just hear the man going to his doctor and saying, “Doc, I think I need meds for “E.D.” because no matter how many times my wife & I lay down in separate bath tubs, nothing ever happens.”].

Aside from obvious silliness like that, drug commercials are inherently funny because, in a 30 second ad, they spend roughly 5 seconds touting the benefit of the medication and 25 seconds whizzing through a thousand potential negative side-effects. Some of the side effects can be quite humorous (or ironic), such as:

A migraine medication that comes with an increased risk of getting headaches.

A weight loss drug that may cause “loose stools, gas with oily spotting and other unpleasant and ‘hard to control’ gastrointestinal reactions.” [Okay, is there any living person who can say “gas with oily spotting” and not crack up laughing?]

A medication for “Restless Leg Syndrome” warns that you may experience “…increased gambling, sexual or other intense urges.” [Yes, increased “gambling” is a side-effect! I wouldn’t take it on my next trip to Vegas.]

And finally, {my wife’s favorite}, a prescription to treat “irritable bowel syndrome” comes with the potential to cause “diarrhea with fainting”. [I’m not sure if the fainting is due to the loss of fluids or just the odor of the diarrhea].

Obviously, some of the side-effects are almost as bad as the disease that the drug is supposed to treat, thus many people opt not to take the medication at all. It’s really a “pyrrhic” choice: continue suffering in your present affliction or merely exchange it for a different set of troubles.

Many of us look at the decision to follow Jesus like it’s a drug commercial – 5 seconds of benefits followed by a list of a thousand negative side-effects. We hear the offer to follow Jesus something like this:

“Following Jesus will bring you eternal life. However, possible side-effects may include: Self-denial, suffering, death, carrying your cross, bearing the burdens of others, loss of material possessions, hunger, imprisonment, loss of friends, public scorn, torture, etc…”

Who hears such an offer and immediately thinks, “Wow! Sign me up right away!”? I mean, we may, after prolonged consideration, come to the conclusion that the benefit of following Jesus slightly outweighs the downside (barely), but it still seems like an awfully tough choice to make.

While not downplaying the difficulties involved, the Bible doesn’t present the call to be disciples of Jesus as a single benefit followed by a long series of negative side-effects that simply have to be endured. Instead, these so-called “side-effects” are actually part of the treatment to help cure us from our spiritual afflictions and increase our maturity as Christians.

Think about it: self-denial helps treat selfishness, suffering produces perseverance (Ro.5:3), loss of possessions or friends brings greater reliance on God’s care & provision, and helping others transforms our love from passive to active (and the list could go on).

The decision to follow Jesus doesn’t come with a bunch of negative side-effects that we must somehow learn to live with. Quite the opposite, it comes with a cure so pure & strong that it causes us to be “…transformed into his [Jesus’] likeness with ever-increasing glory.” (2 Co.3:18) Let us all take a full dose of our healing medicine!

 

Eron Elswick

Worship – Grow – Serve

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