Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Yes, ALL Of It
Luke 14 consistently emphasizes the cost of discipleship. If we’re going to follow Jesus, if we’re going to be citizens of the kingdom of God, then we are to humble ourselves (14:11), “hate” our family (14:26), and carry our cross (14:27). To make matters even more uncomfortable, Jesus says, “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own” (14:33). As Bonhoeffer recognizes, the first disciples had to do this literally in the sense that they left home, work, and family in order to follow Jesus. While they hung on to a few possessions, like their clothing, the original disciples paid a high price to follow Jesus."In a sense"?! I think the problem is that we use qualifiers like "in a sense" - we may remain in physical possession of our stuff, but we no longer own it in any sense. That's were I think we run into trouble.
Throughout the centuries, Christians have wrestled with how Luke 14:33 is to be interpreted and obeyed by those who are not called to follow Jesus literally. Should we sell everything we own or give it all away? Is this what Jesus wants from us? Given the broader teachings and actions of Jesus, it does not seem that he requires literal abandonment of all possessions. Once again, we see that Jesus is speaking hyperbolically in Luke 14:33. But, in a sense, when we decide to follow Jesus, we do give up everything to him: our lives, our ambitions, our relationships, our talents, and our stuff. We recognize that God is the true owner of all that we consider to be ours, and we commit it all to him and his purposes.
We think people are afraid of the stark reality of Christianity - that we sacrifice all to Jesus - ALL! We think that they will balk at that and never come on board. I understand why - it does not sound appetizing in the least. The question is "why not?"
The answer, to my mind is simple. We are unable to demonstrate that things really are better when we truly lay all before the Throne of Grace, mostly becasue we have yet to do so ourselves. We cannot say to people, "this is better - look to my life as evidence." But can we ever create such an example if we continue to use qualifiers like "in a sense?"
Maybe we should concentrate on being better evidence and worry about the argument later.