Brad, could you help me to see a more beautiful way of understanding Luke 9:26?
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory, and in the glory of his Father, and of the holy angels.”
That’s a difficult passage, isn’t it, especially coming from Jesus Christ, the epitome and Incarnation of God’s grace and radical hospitality. So when we see a warning so jarring, so out of character with what we know of the Jesus Way, it’s good ask ask not only what Jesus said or meant, but what he’s up to. What is he aiming at with these words? And how might aim align with his overall mission of a good news gospel?
So, to your question, I’m not so sure that the threat rhetoric in Jesus’s dire warnings are meant to be felt as “beautiful.” Perhaps we’re to feel them as cold water being thrown in one’s face or a slap across the cheek that wakes us up from a self-destructive stupor. The cold water or even the blow of a friend is about preventing harm, not inflicting it. In this case, Jesus’ harsh words serve a rhetorical function: they arrest us on our runway trajectory toward hypothetical disaster (“losing one’s soul” in the previous verse), thus averting it.
I recognize this as love. To have friends who love us enough to jar us to our senses is, I suppose, a beautiful thing. I notice this among addicts in twelve-step fellowships who have a good sponsor. Their sponsor will not sugarcoat the perils if an addict is acting self-centered, resentful, grandiose, or apathetic about their program. They “shoot straight” so that their sponsee feels the sting, but also the care.
So, too, every warning of judgment we hear from Jesus is designed for our salvation and restoration, and can actually be one of the means he uses to that end.