Monday, April 14, 2014

Luke 9:57-62 -- On Committing to Christ

"And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Luke 9:57-62

Some of this seems confusing on first consideration.  Why did Christ mention that he was essentially homeless, and why wouldn't he let people take care of things before following him?  To us it can definitely seem less than compassionate.  I think though, that these verses are compassionate and explanatory.  God is explaining the commitment that is required in order to follow him.
To me, these verses seem similar to the parable of the Great Supper or the parable of the Tower both in Luke 14, and perhaps this is a similar lesson.  There is always going to be something in the way of doing as God asks.  There will always be a reason to beg off or get out of a commitment... but before we make a commitment to God, we need to see the cost up front.  And "whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).  Commitment to God costs everything.  And I think that is what Christ is saying here, to the people who are going to follow him.  They care about different things... and all of those things are normal and understandable to care about.  The first I'm guessing is worried about having shelter.  Christ tells him that if he follows him, he won't always have shelter.  The second wants to bury his father, and Christ tells him, I need you to put what I am asking you first.  You won't always be able to say goodbye.  That's the commitment.  And the third, similarly, wants to say goodbye to his family.  And Jesus tells him that he just tried to make a commitment without being ready for it.  He said "I will follow thee, but...." and there is no room for buts or exceptions when we commit to God.
This isn't to say, of course, that we need to leave our families and abandon our children or elderly relatives in order to follow Christ.  Quite often, our commitment to God and our commitment to our families coincide, and we can fulfil both because it is what God wants.  In this case though, God was calling people to preach the gospel... basically sending them on missions.  That still happens, and often it is hard to do.  Hard to leave our comfort zones.  Hard to let go of the people we love and walk out into the unknown and serve God.  But it is necessary and important, not only for God, but for ourselves.  Leaving that support structure and relying on God teaches us a lot more about that relationship and builds that trust with God more than anything else could.  We have to be able to let go sometimes.
This isn't only about missions though; I don't want to water down the lesson here.  God is all about families, but they do not come first.  He commands us to honor our fathers and mothers, but he also says "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."  The first commandment is love God, and after that comes everyone else, including families, and including ourselves. :)  To really commit to God, that has to be the order.  And if it is, then in all likelihood both commitments will be fine.  But we can't give up on God because something bad happens to our family, or question his wisdom because our house was foreclosed on and we no longer have that shelter.  God is still God when bad things happen, and he still loves us and is able to guide us and teach us even when we're scared about the future.  Trusting him and committing to him come first.
Today, let's commit to follow Christ.  And let's understand what that means up front.  Our commitment to him supersedes all else.  Our trust in him needs to be deeper than anything else, so that it can never be shaken.  If it can... if it is based on someone else or on comfort or convenience, then it will be tested.  Today, let's make our commitment deeper and safer, and get our priorities in order.

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