Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Luke 9:23-26

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels."
Luke 9:23-26

 This is an interesting and seemingly contradictory passage.  How do you save your life by losing it?  I've been thinking about that this morning, and I think that the verses surrounding that statement help us to interpret it.  The first verse in the selection tells us that, if we want to follow Christ, we need to deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily.  And the last verse explains that if we are ashamed of Christ and his teachings, that Christ will be ashamed of us.  So, I think that what we're saving is at least partly the respect of God and life with him, and what we're losing is at least partly the love of the world, and our own selfishness, as we strive to put God's will before our own.
Denying ourselves and taking up our cross seem like big burdens sometimes, and we wonder why we should.  Just for a ticket into heaven which by all accounts is going to be *another* place where we can't do whatever we want? :)  ... Which is a good point, in a way.  I think the question is, what do we truly love, and what do we truly want?  Christ prayed to his Father and begged him, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me."  He didn't want, as an individual in that moment, to suffer and die and leave his loved ones.  But he put God's will before his own and did it anyway.  Why?  Because what he truly wanted and what he truly loved was God.  And he knew that the right thing to do doesn't always coincide with what we want in that moment.
I think (I hope) that we've all had times in our lives where we've done things that are right even though it wasn't necessarily what we wanted at the time.  But then, later, looking back, we realize and are grateful for the decision that we made, because it added to our long-term happiness.  And I hope as well, that we've had moments in our lives where we've made really bad choices based on what we wanted in a particular moment and later regretted the decision and had to do some extra work in our lives to bring them back to okay.  I think the lesson from these experiences is that we don't always want or do the things that are most conducive to our own happiness.  That sometimes to save our true selves, we have to give up some of the harmful parts of our lives.
The person who *always* wants and does the things that are most conducive to our happiness is God.  And when we deny our fallible selves of our temporary and dangerous desires, and instead follow Christ's example of doing what God wants, things turn out a lot better for us.  Heaven is going to be a place where we're happy.  Where we've learned, finally, to also want what is conducive to our happiness, and where we can enjoy life without the complications that come from the really bad choices.
Today, let's lose our bad-choice-making lives.  Maybe get them really, really lost someplace really far from civilization. :)  Then, when we're good and lost (symbolically, of course), let's turn to God, who always knows the way, and who can salvage and save our lives as better people.

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