from Charles Glenn
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them 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. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27)
I’ve been struggling for weeks with what to say about these verses, and how to say anything concisely, yet I could not in conscience put them aside and focus on other and less challenging assigned texts. So herewith some (inadequate) bullet points:
Jesus was not anti-family. One of his criticisms of the religiously hypocritical was that they failed to obey the commandment to honor their parents (Mt 15:5), and even on the cross he showed special care for his mother (Jn 19:26f). Paul echoes this concern: ““Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Eph 6:2).
Jesus was proclaiming and summoning to a new Creation, a rebirth, telling Nicodemus that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (Jn 3:3), and his disciples that “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). He demanded a radical break with our old ways and whatever holds us back from giving him our hearts and our lives.
This should not be confused with the fashion of self-creation for the sake of “authenticity” which is so prevalent in our culture (and in educational theory, my own field). No, we are not to invent ourselves, but to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24). Christian families and the family of the Church have a key role in helping us, as children but also as adults, to grow into the fulness of what God intends us to be, on the model of our Lord.
It can seem as though Jesus wanted to discourage people from becoming his followers; more accurately, he wanted them to count the cost. He was acknowledging also that not all would agree to pay it. Indeed, only those called by him were and are today enabled to become his disciples: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit” (Jn 15:16; see also 2 Thes. 2:13; 1 Peter 2:9). We have been called “from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners” (Is 41:9) and empowered by God’s love to answer that call.
Why us? That is a great mystery, and lives in tension with the fact that Christ died for all and that his common grace blesses all of Creation. It is not for us to judge God’s intentions toward others, only to rejoice in the knowledge that “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor 1:9).
God has blessed me with seven children and ten grandchildren, and with many small friends at Church of the Cross!