Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Your Questions Please! Episode One - Luke 14:25-35

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‘Help me to understand Luke 14:25-35.’

25 Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”                                        Luke 14:25-35 ESV

Jesus is not telling us to actively hate anyone, least of all those whom we are taught in Scripture to love, honor and cherish. We should not hate ourselves, but love ourselves, for God loves us. Jesus teaches us to love even our enemies. But we are to be ready to let relationships go, if necessary, for the sake of following Jesus.  

In many places in the world today, the family is the group to which exclusive loyalty is demanded. To betray one’s father is unpardonable sin. Disciples of Jesus have a different allegiance, to him and his family. To become a disciple of Jesus can separate the believer from earthly attachments of kin, nation, and the prevailing ways of life. For some, it can even mean being put in danger of death.

The cross-bearing urged upon the disciples is this exclusive loyalty to Jesus. It is not that we have no earthly ties. But all other allegiances, to family, to nation, and even to one’s own life, take their place within and under the primary allegiance to God. When differences arise, we give pride of place to Christ.

In order to be a follower of Jesus, then, we should count the cost before embracing the life of discipleship. Jesus uses the metaphor of a builder or a king who determines whether there is enough to complete a task. If you don’t have enough, don’t begin! But the message for us is slightly different – if we do not first know how much we have to give up to be a disciple, we shouldn’t begin either. It is not that we should NOT become disciples, but discipleship demands being ‘all-in.’

Those who do not first count the cost and then discover what they are asked to give up often give up discipleship. They are like salt which loses its ‘saltiness.’ The earthy metaphor is that salt was used as a cleansing agent, poured upon manure that was burned to bake bread. After a while, the salt was all used up – it wasn’t any good anymore – and it had to be discarded.

This Independence Day weekend is a fruitful time to consider this passage. In our place, it is not only the family that demands our allegiance, but the nation. When we are displeased with our government, we are free to register our disagreement and we can still be patriots. But what if the nation becomes so tyrannical, so monolithic that we must choose between following God’s commands or the nation’s commands, and so we become alienated from the nation?

Or, what if disagreement with the status quo of society leaves us out and makes us pariahs? What if the giving up of possessions, perhaps through our tithes or gifts of time, means we must sacrifice the good things of the world? We are called to count the cost, to bear the cross, to suffer with Christ, having a higher allegiance.

Living in a world with competing loyalties raises many questions. Jesus’ words do not provide an easy method for determining what to do in each situation. But they call us to wrestle with them. ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ Our tie to him puts other ties in their proper places, so that Christ and his kingdom may be our only good, and that we may follow him on the way of discipleship.

Pastor Frontz

(I am indebted to the commentary Luke, by David Lyle Jefferies, in preparing this meditation.)