I was debating whether to post this today or not, since I already posted, but I felt it is at the core of who we are as true followers of Christ. Below is a class devotion for this week and my response. May it give you eyes to see and ears to hear the radical, Biblical call of Jesus to those who call themselves Christians, and may it move you to respond in a new and obedient way. Be Blessed, Be Challenged, and Be Encouraged to Move in the direction of Jesus.
Following Despite the Cost
Dr. Robert Danielson
Scripture: Luke 9:57-62
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’
He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’
Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” Luke 9:57-62
These are tough scriptures for most Christians. So tough that many people do not want to hear them, much less preach a sermon on them. In the first scripture, Jesus tells a potential follower that he will never have a home to call his own, in fact he will have less of a home than the animals have. The Kingdom of God takes priority over our property or physical welfare.
In the next scripture, a potential follower asks Jesus if he can go home and bury his father. He is not talking about an hour or two, he is talking about his social responsibility to his aged father. He is requesting time to go home and take care of his father until his father dies. This would be a very proper request of an obedient and good son in Jesus’ day as well as in our own, but Jesus rejects this request in a very harsh way. But Jesus is basically saying that the Kingdom of God takes precedence over social responsibilities.
In the third scripture, the prospective follower asks for permission to say good-bye to his family. Again Jesus responds harshly, indicating that the Kingdom of God takes precedence over family ties.
All three of these passages hit us hard, because they go against what many in the world and the Church tell us. Even in the Church we now have financial teachers who tell us how to invest and save and build up good retirement portfolios and it all sounds very biblical when they say it in their seminars or write their books. We have Christian leadership experts that tell pastors they need to set aside time for themselves and learn to put themselves and their families first to avoid burnout and have an effective ministry. We also have Christian counselors who would certainly not advocate abandoning our social responsibilities to elderly family members. All of this sends us mixed signals. It all makes sense to our minds, and yet Jesus seems to put all this aside and say the Kingdom of God is where our priorities lie.
Then we think of historic missionaries who crossed oceans for the sake of the Kingdom without any thought of returning. They left everything: houses, family, social responsibilities. In some cases they became heroes of the faith, but many did not. At the beginning of missions to Africa, life expectancy was about one year. Africa, Asia, and Latin America are filled with the bones of nameless missionaries who laid down their lives for the Kingdom. But it has been said that the Church grows from the blood of the martyrs.
Yet the Church today seems to tell us the opposite. Why? I have often pondered this and it is not easy to understand. Have we become so fearful of death and sacrifice that we convince ourselves that Jesus did not say these things? The way of the Kingdom is not easy. Jesus never promised an easy path, and yet in the United States today we seem to take it for granted that Christians should be able to “have it all.” Even the Church looks strangely at people who feel called to abandon everything for the sake of following Christ.
There is also a tendency to spiritualize Jesus’ words, to make them sound less harsh. Maybe Jesus is just saying we need to be willing to sacrifice these things, but he does not really intend to have us follow through? But for over a thousand years, all over the globe, many followers have taken these words seriously. Christians in Hindu or Buddhist cultures have been unable to preform the ceremonies or sacrifices to bury their fathers and mothers because it involves actions not compatible with the Christian faith. Christians in communist lands lost property and houses because they refused to renounce their Lord. Many Christians in Muslim cultures have had to sever family ties because they choose to put the Kingdom of God first in their lives.
The message of the Kingdom of God is a radical and often disturbing message. The Church in the U.S. has often glossed over this message, removed its sting, or tried to make it fit our cultural worldview. Yet, the message remains, and in scriptures like these we are called once again into radical obedience to our Lord and King. Are you ready to be homeless for the Kingdom? Are you ready to cut ties with your family for the Kingdom? Are you ready to leave social obligations and be publicly criticized and ridiculed for the Kingdom? Jesus calls us, no, demands that we reach the point of answering with a radical “yes” to all of these questions. Are you ready?
This scripture is oh so very profound to me this morning, and the lesson that follows. I have found myself “preaching” this very thing many times, but in different ways on my blog, in my emails to others, and in different classroom settings that i find myself in. It resonates with me so deeply b/c I’ve lived it. I’ve lost jobs even with education and experience behind me, I’ve felt outcast by family and friends, even in the church at times, and now stepping out and coming to seminary is another act of obedience that I am walking in, even when I don’t have a clear vision, I am still walking by faith in it. I have found myself on my knees much like Romero and said “I am yours, your will be done”. The challenge today for me is putting things in order. You state ” …and yet Jesus seems to put all this aside and say the Kingdom of God is where our priorities lie.” I once read that the order should go: God, family, ministry. I have been trying to keep this order, yet now I am reminded that it will be God who gets me closer to Him, it is he who will allow me to lead my family in a God-fearing way, and it is he who will open doors to whatever ministry he wants me in, but in doing so, I must put His kingdom first! I must always have Kingdom vision in everything that I do, say and strive to become. I must see my life lived for the kingdom alone, and all my actions and activities need to fall into place after that.
Ah yes, the issues with the church, what a tangled mess that is! The way of the Kingdom is not easy, and your right, there are many professing “Christians” who do not live the proper perspective of the call that Christ places on us as saved and sanctified, new creations in Christ. It’s very heart-breaking to me, but all I can do is be who God has called me to be, to be a light that would shine for Him, in hopes others would catch a glimpse of some of his true character that I strive to become like. There is death in The Cross, the is death as a Christian, but who wants to die? This here is the issue of surrender, giving up All for the one who gave All for us. Jesus said For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. I love how you end your devotion; “the message remains, and in scriptures like these we are called once again into radical obedience to our Lord and King. Are you ready to be homeless for the Kingdom? Are you ready to cut ties with your family for the Kingdom? Are you ready to leave social obligations and be publicly criticized and ridiculed for the Kingdom? Jesus calls us, no, demands that we reach the point of answering with a radical “yes” to all of these questions. Are you ready?”. I’ve often prayed the prayer of Isaiah 6:8 “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” This is the radical and disturbing message that I will strive to live for. May God be glorified in my weakness and may I always burn for him alone. Amen.