Three Hard Sayings on Discipleship-A A +A
The Good News
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
THIS Sunday’s gospel, recorded in Luke 14:25-33, highlights the cost of discipleship. The story starts with Jesus traveling, and large crowds, following him. Why were they following him? Perhaps at this point in Jesus’ ministry, the multitudes have heard him teach with wisdom and power. They have seen him heal people with all kinds of diseases. They have witnessed him drive out with great authority all sorts of evil spirits, and they were privy to his radical message of justice, mercy and love. Could it be that some were following him to hear more of the lessons he taught? Be cured of their own infirmities? Be liberated from the torments of the devil? Or could it be that some have started building their faith in him, that by now, they were contemplating on following him all the way as disciples? The reason could be any of the foregoing; it could even be all.
But to those who were considering discipleship, Jesus gave three hard sayings. First, he said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters -- yes, even their own life -- such a person cannot be my disciple.” Second, he declared, “Whoever does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple,” and third, he admonished, “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Shocking, but what did Jesus really mean?
Did Jesus literally mean that we should hate our parents, our children, our siblings and our very own lives? Wasn’t it God himself who commanded us, “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12)”? And don’t Scriptures also say, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer…” (1 John 3:15), “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar” (1 John 4:20a) and “…love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)? What then does hating family and self here mean?
Hate in this case is not to be taken literally. It means that we truly have to obey God’s teachings on loving our father, mother, children, brothers, sisters and self, but our love for them and for anyone else should not exceed or displace our love for God. Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:37 were very clear, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” God expects us to love our family, our neighbors and ourselves, but we must love him above all else.
Second, what did he mean when he challenged us to carry our own crosses? Surely, he did not give us an instruction to flagellate ourselves, carry a heavy wooden cross and be crucified to it. Rather, he must have meant that to carry our cross is to be willing to suffer for the sake of Christ.
Many Christian martyrs died in their witness of faith. Some were sowed into two, fed to lions, beheaded and tortured in many other ways. Not all Christians are destined to pass through such a bloody martyrdom, but all are called to become martyrs in the ordinary affairs of daily life. By renouncing the evil of this world, by taking the road to the narrow door, and by being faithful in the simplest of our duties and obligations, we carry our own crosses.
Lastly, what was Jesus’ real message in saying that we should give up everything? Are we going to sell everything that we have and give all to his church? If that was the intention, why did he not rebuke Zacchaeus, the tax collector, when upon the latter’s conversion, he decided to give half of his possessions to the poor (see Luke 19:1-9)? Why did he not command him to give not half but the whole of his wealth?
To give up everything means not to let anything become an obstacle to our service to God. It connotes loving God with our whole heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37), and it is despising, not money, but the love of money. As it is written, “For the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Coming from Jesus himself, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13).
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on September 05, 2013.