There are some things Jesus says that are so severe they will wreck you. Sometimes he speaks things we don’t want to hear, or things that confuse us. A confession: I've been meditating on three sentences and I'm agitated by them:
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9: 23-25)
Gain by losing.
Save by giving away.
Succeed by sacrifice.
What does it mean for 21st century American Christians to lose life for his sake? There are people around the world who literally lose life for the sake of Jesus' name. We do not face the threat of martyrdom.
The call to "lose" is an invitation to submit all of life to the man we call Lord. It is Jesus' claim of primacy. Christ is first and everything else comes after him. For some, this fact will require blood. For those of us in a country of wealth and freedom, it will mean giving away good things.
We often say, “Family first.” But Jesus stakes the claim on number one. Love and honor your family, but our Lord supersedes. It is often said, "Country first." But I'm a Christian before I'm an American. My relationship with Jesus governs all others.
We live in a land of unparalleled blessing. For us to "lose for his sake" demands radical re-prioritization. How do we demonstrate the kingship of Christ by setting aside our privilege, rights, or wealth?
"Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." This is not a lesson we "get" and then move on. We need mental and emotional capacity to live with these words over a long period of time. Each of us are taught what Jesus means as we face daily decisions to follow him into selfless sacrifice. Our prayer is:
Lord, what must I lose for your sake?
The cross is the trademark of "gaining by losing." The mission of Jesus was one of loss, but out of his death came our eternal gain.
There are some things Jesus says that are so severe they will wreck you. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the perplexity of Jesus. The only reason I take these words so seriously is because of the One who said them.
Jesus, you saved the world by losing your life, so I find my life by losing it too. I can gain the whole world and discover that I’ve lost myself. So I give away my life, and find my whole world in you. Amen.