Christians and the Realm of Desperation

by Michael Kelley February 14, 2017

“Then they came up, took hold of Jesus, and arrested Him. At that moment one of those with Jesus reached out his hand and drew his sword. He struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his ear…” (Matthew 26:51)

I haven’t cut anyone’s ear off, but I know the feeling. The circumstances are closing in and you feel like your options are becoming more and more limited with each passing second. There is a deadline that has come up at work and the hurdle to meet your goal seems too great. There is a test you forgot about at school and now it’s 8 a.m. and you haven’t cracked a single book. The relationship is quickly going south and you don’t see any way to salvage it. The feeling all these instances have in common is that of desperation.

Desperation is a feeling of hopelessness. Of impending danger. Of despair. And that feeling results in rash or extreme behavior. No time to think, no time to consider, and no time to breathe. Only time to act. And so, like Peter, we feel the walls start to close in on us and look down and see the sword that must be swung.

And, like Peter, we can see that Jesus does not feel this same sense of impending doom:

Then Jesus told him, “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword. Or do you think that I cannot call on My Father, and He will provide Me at once with more than twelve legions of angels? How, then, would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54)

If we are to follow Jesus, then we must have a growing understanding that the Christian does not operate in the realm of desperation. Just as our Lord did not.

Because He knew the reality of eternity, Jesus can play the long game. He doesn’t have to make decisions because He feels like He’s boxed in by the moment. Jesus can hold to principle, to morality, and to His own gospel, precisely because of His unwavering confidence in the God who is. Not the God who was. And not the God that will be.

These days seem to increasingly be days of desperation for many Christians. We feel our options are limited. And with circumstances closing in, we get that sense of desperation inside of us. We feel we absolutely, positively, must act in a certain way, not because it’s the right or moral thing or the thing that’s most consistent with the gospel, but because it’s the only thing we feel we can do.

But it is certainly not. Not if eternity matters. Not if eternity is a reality.

Put away your sword of desperation, Christian. Follow instead the Jesus who heals the ear.