Thursday, April 24, 2008

The 21st Century disciple

One thing we don't hear in church on Sunday morning very often is the cost of discipleship. As I mentioned in the last segment, our churches today have spiritualized the Gospel, making it an individual decision. This comes from the western mindset of individualism. We want to be our own man, to lead our own lives. So we have detached spirituality from the community and have placed it in the individual.

Our pastors now feed lines of profession to saints during their baptisms, this is because our young brothers and sisters are not being taught what this profession means. It is more than signing a membership card and paying tithe every week. Christ has called us to a total devotion to him.

Matthew 16:24-26
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
Luke 14:26-30, 33-35
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
So what does it mean to hate? The common explanation comes from the likes of Bible commentators such as Matthew Henry who says, "he must comparatively hate them, must love them less than Christ, as Leah is said to be hated when Rachel was better loved. Not that their persons must be in any degree hated, but our comfort and satisfaction in them must be lost and swallowed up in our love to Christ, as Levi’s was, when he said to his father, I have not seen him. (Deut. 33:9)"

This is a great explanation pulled from scripture, but the comparative is added to help us make sense of things. The Jacob/Esau comparison is a comparison, but the "hate" there is an "opposition to." God opposed Esau, and blessed Jacob.

Interestingly, Esau was a successful person, as we see that he had many servants. Which shows what Jesus said that God causes rain to fall on the righteous and wicked. (Matt. 5:45) So this opposition/hate by God toward Esau could be seen as God hating Esau's wickedness, and blessing Jacob's righteousness. But Jacob was in no way more righteous than Esau when he was blessed, or chosen, when he was born ("the older will serve the younger" (Gen. 25:23)). He was a deceptive young man, and even deceived his uncle later in life by interbreeding their sheep. (Gen. 30)

Paul's application of the Jacob/Esau divide was in explaining election. Clearly Jacob was elected before his birth, and Esau was despised. And this election was for the blessing of the Lord and of the lineage of the Messiah. Our election is to eternal life. So from this we see that Esau is the image of the unbeliever and Jacob is the image of the believer. God's hatred is thus towards the unregenerate, and the elect are chosen to be saved through the washing by blood and renewing of mind by the power of the Spirit. We too were hated by God, but he loved us so much he saved us. Paradoxical.

So what do we learn from all of this in relation to Luke 14:26 and onward? What I believe is that we are to follow Jesus and his commands while entirely disregarding the demands and commands of all others as they conflict with the Word of the Lord. As God both hated us and loved us, we are to hate and love the world. We are sojourners here. We are not of this world, and our work here should be the work of one from another world reaching into this one to show love and mercy to the enemies of God.We are opposed to the world, and are enemies of it; but we love our enemies and give ourselves to them.

Because our language is so limiting, this hate is not spite, evil thoughts or anger towards anyone, it is then correctly placed, as Matthew Henry and so many others say, in a comparative view. This is a simplistic way on answer, but when you discover what it truly means, it's political, it's social, it's spiritual. It alters the way in which one lives.

And I think in this country something has been spiritualized, like in so many past empires and kingdoms, and that is America. America is placed on par with Christ, and it is a great evil. We disobey the Lord of Hosts to carry out the plans of the nation. We're encouraged to lie, steal, deceive, kill, abandon the sabbath, idolize our sovereignty, and dishonor our parents all for the sake of "national security" or "foreign interests" or whatever it is. And that's what it means to "forsake all others." That's what it means to "be a stranger in this land." One blogger friend of mine explained why he didn't vote by saying he wouldn't vote in France either. The image here is that of a resident alien. We live here under the laws of the nation, but we are not a part of this nation, we are not vested in her interests.

As a disciple of Christ, we are to be apart from the world. Church derives from ekklesia, "called ones out." We are pulled out of this world, not a part in the temporal worries and cares of the day. No not live as the world does. (Rom. 12:2) The 21st Century Church needs to get back to following the commands of Christ.

No comments: