What does it mean to be a disciple? One of the hopes we may have for our lives is that it is joyful and good. That we might remember more moments of laughter than of sadness and that we would feel God’s abundant love.
However, in our passage today Jesus lets us know that this might not always be the case. That follow Jesus might have a cost.
Scripture: Luke 14: 25-33
Things have been looking good these past few weeks. A dominant theme we’ve been exploring is divine mercy as it’s found in Luke’s gospel. And then we have today’s reading and it seems like Jesus wants the party to end.
Today’s passage has Jesus dropping the proverbial gauntlet or in today’s vernacular, it’s a mic drop moment. It’s a passage that leaves us with our moths slightly ajar, we shudder in disbelief, we read the passage a second time and it still isn’t any better.
Hate your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters and here is the one that gets me, yes, even your own life. Pardon? I need to hate my own life in order to follow Jesus? Can I skip this passage please? What is happening here?
A sobering turn, the cost of discipleship. Do we weigh out the cost? Should we?
Matthew’s rendition of this passage is milder and easier to swallow when Jesus says, those who love family members more than they love him are not worthy of him (Matthew 10:37). Softer than what we find here in Luke where that dreaded word hate is used. It’s jarring to read and if we are honest the language used here isn’t what we would normally associate with Jesus. Though Jesus does have some harsh words for individuals and groups in scripture, we always tend to lean towards a loving and compassionate understanding of Jesus. So why is he telling us that we will need to hate?
Carolyn Sharp explains what is happening in this passage. She writes, “In Jewish traditions, “hate” is used regularly of the animosity between actual enemies, to be sure. But it is also used in binary wisdom aphorisms employing “love” and “hate” as paradigmatic responses of discernment: the wicked are said to hate discipline, justice, and knowledge, while the righteous hate wickedness, falsehood, and gossip (for example, Psalms 45:7; 50:17; 97:10; 119:163; Proverbs 1:29; Sirach 19:6) … Luke 14:26 is not advocating intense hostility toward kin and life, but, rather, is promoting the steadfast refusal to allow something less valuable to displace something more valuable. (Carolyn Sharp)
The context of this passage, how the Jewish people formed their arguments and shaped their dialogue is lost on us. It’s literally lost in translation and the result is a passage we want nothing to do with. This doesn’t mean we get to soften parts of scripture we find difficult or challenging. It also doesn’t mean we get a pass when we screw up. We are still accountable to God, our community and ourselves. However, we remember in all of this that we do follow a God of grace and mercy.
The purpose of this passage is to remind of the cost of discipleship, to understand what it takes to follow Jesus. Last week we spoke of divine mercy in the form of a radical hospitality that lifts the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Well guess what, doing those kinds of things upsets people. Either because they will suffer or lose out due to others being elevated or because of their own hardness of heart. If you doubt that, go onto social media and read some of the debates that are going on about the announcement a week ago regarding student loan forgiveness in the United States. Then realize that some who are against this would profess to be Christians. The forgiveness of debt is a theme is scripture, it’s referred to as the year of jubilee.
This passage is about a reorientation of values. Think about last week and who Jesus encouraged us to invite to dinner. A radical realignment of societal values and priorities. Many individuals who first heard that story may not have enjoyed it or its implications. Many people we know might struggle with our choice.
We may struggle with our choice. We may find it difficult to walk the road of discipleship and that is another focus of the passage. To allow for and provide space for self-reflection. To deal with that final sentence where Jesus tells us that to follow him we must give up all our possessions. What do we do with that? Jesus was an itinerant preacher who travelled from village to village living off of the generosity of friends and followers.
Is Jesus advocating that we do the same? I don’t think so.
We also manage and arrange property and money in a different way than was done 2000 years ago. Are we to sell our homes, our clothes, our cars, and our phones in order to best follow Jesus? I’m not sure that would help us and in fact it might hinder us. Is this a commandment we should read and follow literally? If so, we are all in trouble. Note that these words of Jesus come after a section about weighing the cost of our actions. Just as we should consider what it means to follow and serve Jesus.
Another way of framing this discussion is to consider the occasion that we are reading this passage. It’s labour day weekend. The final days of play in summer before school starts up again. But labour day, a day we take a rest from work. Cameron Howard writes, “While discipleship is not a job, the intersection of this passage with Labor Day reminds us that discipleship does matter for our jobs. Discipleship has bearing on how we make money, and how much of it we make, and what we do with it once we make it. If we are turned toward Jesus in every aspect of life, then the cross is before us in our work and our play. In other words, discipleship is our vocation, regardless of what our jobs are.” (Cameron Howard)
You’ll often hear people say do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. As Christians, our primary calling is towards God. That is our vocation, everything else we do is in service to this calling. The work we do and how we do that work is a reflection of our lives as followers of Christ. It can look like an empty road, a solitary path. Some won’t understand our choices.
However, in making the decision of discipleship, by choosing to follow Jesus we will encounter others who have made the same choice and we will realize that we are not alone. For not only do we walk with Jesus, but we walk with others who have wrestled with the same questions we have and who have also chosen to walk the road of discipleship. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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