37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
I always come to passages like this with fear and trembling. I, like most Americans, have made Jesus out to be a really nice fellow. A loving teacher who came so we could all just get along. And then, "Wham", Jesus breaks out of my mold and shows that he will not be tamed by our deeply held 21st century beliefs.
A person said to me once, "Lee, I was hoping you would tell me this was a bad translation. I just can believe Jesus would say this". Alas, it's not a bad translation, and Jesus says things like this a lot, but we just usually skip over those parts.
I've tried to be open about my own struggles in my faith journey, and this is something I've been struggling with recently. What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? I think I've fallen into the current false belief that life should be easy and being a follower of Jesus should be painless. But in fact, life is hard and being a Christian is a call to suffer. I'm not trying to paint a dark picture, just an accurate one.
Being a Christ follower means giving up everything: hopes, dreams, ideologies, political affiliations, and even familial ties (this was especially true in the early church). There is nothing more important to us than Christ and his Kingdom. But as I prayed this morning, I had to be really honest and admit that I often seek to "find my life". I do everything I can to avoid the cost of being a Christian.
As we approach Good Friday, I can't avoid a confrontation with my own hypocrisy and brokenness. As we journey to the Cross, I can't help but hear Jesus' words anew: "Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me".
I'm not advocating a new "earn-God's-love" mentality. Rather, I'm advocating listening to Jesus' words and deciding if we are truly on the road of discipleship or if we are just fans of a "Jesus" who tells us what we want to hear.