Christianity is the only religion or way of life that obligates and calls people to do the impossible. It is the antithesis of the cultural message most children and adults hear, that "you can do anything you put your mind to if you just believe in yourself."
When thinking of what "the impossible" might be, many think of very difficult feats like earning a college degree, playing professional ball, or building a large sum of wealth. Some may think of overcoming impossible obstacles such as a severe illness, disability or socioeconomic condition.
But that's not what Christ has in mind when he calls us to do the impossible. If it is, then Christianity is no different from any other world belief system. As a matter of fact, humans have historically accomplished and overcome great feats without believing, trusting, and following Christ.
Many impoverished kids have made it to the league. Many people with disabilities have overcome impossible odds. Many low have become high. Many poor have become rich. Many sick have become well. And most of the stories exclude faith in Christ. The moral of most of them is, if you believe in yourself, you can do anything.
And then Christ steps on the scene and calls us to love.
Just when we say, "That's all? I can do that." he calls us to love our enemies - to love those who actively and aggressively hate us, those who do not reciprocate our good will.
Christ calls us to the impossible task of liberating others from meeting certain beneficiary qualifications in order to be loved by us. As a matter of fact, as the love of others recedes, his call for us to love them increasingly resounds.
If we can somehow accomplish obedience to this command, blessings will overflow. But if we cannot obey, we stand empty, in need of his merciful kindness, and reminded that we are weak and unable to do this one small, yet impossible task.
A man may reach the peak of Mount Everest, but he cannot overcome the monumental reluctance of his own heart.
A woman may give direction and leadership to a large corporation, but she cannot direct and lead her own desires.
The devastating truth that we cannot do the impossible if we believe in ourselves has lead millions into the relentless pursuit of a thousand seemingly significant, possible tasks. When Christ calls us to love our nasty neighbor, we run away dismayed, franticly searching for [other] teachers who can give us commandments we can accomplish. We will go to anyone and ask...
Who exactly is my neighbor? Do I give them money? How much do I give? What if they misuse what I give them?
What strategy can I employ to provide water for the entire continent of Africa? How do I start a ministry that does what other ministries are already doing? What can I do right now to change the world?
What possible thing can I do today that will look like I accomplished the impossible tomorrow? How can I soothe my guilty conscience? How can I remove the stain of my own sin?
How do I do these things while appeasing my wife who is starting to hate my efforts to change the world?
How can I make my marriage argument free and do this ministry at the same time? How can I assure my wife that I love her while working too much saving the world? How can I love her without knowing her? How can I care for her when I don't know how?
How can I refrain from going to bed angry tonight? How can I love her well when I really don't want to?
And after we have read the books, asked the teachers, gone to countless seminars and conferences, our own inabilities continue to stare us (and others) glaringly in the face. We have succeeded at reaching the nations, but have failed miserably to love our neighbor. This is the desperate condition only Christianity can heal. This is greatest human weakness that only Christ is strong enough to change.
The good news is that he does. He loves those who do not reciprocate. He loves sinners who come to the end of themselves - who forsake their own efforts and rely fully upon his grace to work in them what they cannot work within themselves. He is strong to love the unlovable that they might become both lovable and loving to others.