March 29, 2017
There are some hard teachings in the Bible when it comes to following Christ. Here’s one of the hardest:
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)
That’s a lot of people and stuff to just leave. As I looked up the parallel passages in Mark 10:29-30 and Luke 18:29-30, the picture broadens to also sacrificing land, property and wife. That sounds even worse! When I read these verses last week (and I’ve read them often), I was flummoxed. Can this really be? I know God is not asking any of us to break our marriage covenant. He expects us to keep that. God is not asking me to be an irresponsible parent. He gave me three wonderful children to raise and love all my life. What is he really asking of us as followers of Christ?
On further study of the context in Matthew 19:16-30, I noticed the disciples’ response. They too had questions. When Jesus said, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” scripture says the disciples were astonished. “Who then can be saved?” they asked. And Jesus says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Peter’s reply to that? “We have left everything to follow you!” I think he was also flummoxed! Which leads to Jesus’s teaching above. So it seems these words of Jesus were not meant to discourage his followers, but encourage those who had already made the decision to put him first.
Jesus was encouraging his disciples that their decision to put their identity in him, above identity in family, was a good decision. Jesus was encouraging his disciples that putting their security in him, above property and possessions, was a good decision. He didn’t ask them to be irresponsible but to be responsibly committed to him, because with God all things are possible.
Admittedly, the first ones I think of who are living this out are our global partners. They have physically left family and property to live out Christ in a different context. Giles and Alison, Van and Jane, Paul and Stacey, Bruce and Alice, Bruce E and Cindy, Dawn, Zach and Haley, Jeremiah, John and Ruth – all of them felt the call of God to be responsibly committed to him in this way. It was a big ask from Christ, “for his sake”, and this is how they responded. Two others from our church are preparing to do the same.
But this is not just a scripture passage for global workers. We all are required to work this one out. What does it mean to be responsibly committed to Christ? What does it mean for each of us to leave people and possessions for his sake? We all need to settle that question as followers of Christ. It’s a big ask from Christ to each of his flummoxed disciples today. It will look different for each of us.
Til next week,