Decades have passed as I realized very, very few wish to quote, preach or consider the following (admittedly, selected by me) verses attributed to Jesus Christ in the four Gospels. Now, “gospel” itself literally means “good news” and there is the dilemma, the bind, the pain factor, indeed the cross for those who -say- they either seek to or are following Jesus.
Reportedly all of the following but the last section of text are the words of Jesus:
Matthew 16.24 Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, they must deny self and take up their cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for My sake will find it. 26 What will it profit a person if they gain the whole world, yet forfeits their soul? Or what can a person give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will repay each one according to what they have done.
(Also Matthew 10.37-39; Mark 8.34-38; Luke 9.23-27)
Luke 14.25 Large crowds were now traveling with Jesus, and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple. 28 Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has the resources to complete it? 29 Otherwise, if he lays the foundation and is unable to finish the work, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man could not finish what he started to build.’ 31 Or what king on his way to war with another king will not first sit down and consider whether he can engage with ten thousand men the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if he is unable, he will send a delegation while the other king is still far off, to ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any one of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.
(Also Matthew 8.18-22; Luke 9.57-62; John 6.60-65)
Matthew 22.34 And when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they themselves gathered together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with a question: 36 “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” 37 Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Also Deuteronomy 6.1-19; Mark 12.28-34)
Lastly please consider from the apostle John:
1 John 4.20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
My takeaway from these four texts alone:
Would-be followers or those of us who imperfectly, stumblingly walk with Jesus and seek to apply His teachings must ultimately face the real and often very present pains of surrendering OUR will, OUR desires and even our sense of security. We surrender them to Him in faith, trust and to the best of our understanding, obedience. If we conclude God “is not enough”, or merely cherry-pick from what Jesus Himself reportedly said and meant in The Bible we find ourselves in denial of Him.
The Church in our quest to attract, hold and and be acceptable to current and potential members has often denied the fulcrum of Jesus’ Own outlay of what a disciple of His must face. We avoid quoting and wrestling with some of the more difficult and even “WHATTTTT??!! THIS can’t BE TRUE!” portions of The Bible and finally re-write or discard any sort of cannon of scripture largely based on our enlightened views of what He really meant and what He actually commands. Promises, no problem… commands, uuggghhh!
That word “HATE” is largely and I believe truly, soundly translated from biblical Greek and a massive amount of scholars have rightly interpreted what Jesus -means- in those passages is that we must love God supremely, even over family, etc., etc., or we are at core idolaters. It is a matter of loving by comparison -because there is no other Lord nor Savior but Jesus and if we are not first concerned with Him, His Word and will we often put our dearest family and friends ahead and even over Him. Our “first love” (to quote Revelations) must truly be Jesus. There is just no escaping this but for creating our own (at least) partial though false “scripture”.
The term “ALL” indeed means all. How often we love God like we pay taxes. Where are the loopholes, the work-arounds, how can we keep as much for ourselves (rightly or wrongly) as possible? God throughout The Bible gives us that option (“Choose this day whom you will serve”, “Whosoever will” and so on) but these and so many words of Christ Himself are strong, challenging, difficult statements that size us up in our supposed Christian faith and practice or not, of how He defines discipleship. Frankly, individual Christians as well as churches do not always agree with Him- and He loves us though He does not even slightly change -though we must and can by His grace and power as we trust and surrender to Him.
Then we come to John in his first letter to the Church.
Regardless of agreement or disagreement on any number of issues there is this major-league, bottom-line thing about loving God supremely and neighbor as “just like it”. Hmmm? Jesus states it plainly and people walk away. John states it straight in another fashion here. Toward people there is no room for hate -regardless of anything. Zero. No quarter to say you love God while literally hating (which does not mean loving-less…) people though you may severely disagree with them on any number of issues.
Either (as Hebrews plainly states) Jesus “died once for all” or He did not. Either God calls all people everywhere to repent (Book of Acts, etc.) or He doesn’t. Either we recognize that careful contextual interpretation of The Bible sometimes speaks to His Own people while at other times speaks to/about those not yet following Him… or we look for loopholes to simply “write our own text”, that is “our own fictional cannon”.
If one continues down that road it becomes ever so easy (Adam and Eve narrative anyone?) to “write our own script”, to usurp God’s Own revelation as one of any options. In a word, self. Self vs. Christ, self vs. God is as old as… humankind.
As honestly as I can ponder God, His Word and the world, ancient and at present, and the world to come, these issues are non-negotiable but how we do our best to avoid them!
True grace does not eliminate the crosses Jesus calls His people to carry -it enables us to carry ours for His sake and the sake of His good news as we walk with Him.
Things to consider along the path?
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn