Recently, I’ve been thinking really hard about the seriousness of Jesus’ words. We often mitigate the severity of his statements by explaining them away. "Oh, it meant something different back then." But if we stop trivializing him long enough to take him seriously, there is much to make us questions our Christianity.
In particular, I’m challenged by his demands that require everything. Like when he says "follow me," and the first disciples "left everything and followed him" (Luke 5:11,28). Here are just a few "everything" statements that may cause you to question your Christianity:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:22).
“Anyone who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
“Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me” (Luke 18:22).
What does it mean to give up "all" or "everything" for your Lord? In his commentary on Luke, Joel Green provides a useful observation. He notes three implications for the first disciples when they "left everything" to follow Jesus:
Economic – “Everything” included economic considerations. A large catch was a lucrative inventory of valuable product. They walked away, not only from this one-time payday, but any kind of steady income stream.
Vocational – “Everything” included vocational considerations. They weren’t just giving up a job. They set aside a way of life. A career and an identity. A teacher, a doctor, an engineer, a small business owner – what you do becomes part of who you are. And they walked away from it.
Social – “Everything” included social considerations. They left - at least for a time - families, friends, communities, co-workers. They risked their reputations. People would have said, “Did you hear what Peter did? Do you know what Zebedee’s boys are doing now?”
Green concludes his observation with this: “Leaving all that had been of value, the disciples found their fundamental sense of belonging in relationship to Jesus.”
From time to time, it's healthy to question our Christianity. To ask, "Am I willing to leave everything for him?" Everything that I value? My economic, vocational, or social status? Do I find my fundamental sense of belonging in him alone?
This is the purpose of "giving up" something for Lent. The age-old practice of fasting is meant to be a gut check. Does God care if I give up chocolate or caffeine? Probably not. But in a small way, it confronts us with the question,
“Could I give up anything and everything for him?”
There’s an old Mother Theresa story about a reporter who was doing an article on her life and ministry. He followed her around the streets of Calcutta. He saw her work with the poor, the orphan, and those of lowest status. He asked Mother Theresa, “Why do you do this?” She replied, “It’s very difficult. I wouldn’t do this for a million dollars . . . but for Jesus I would.”
The cost of following Jesus is great. If we follow earnestly, at times we will question, "Why am I doing this?" As we follow him to the cross, we find him to be unlike anyone else we have ever met. His love continues to astound me. And so I say, "For Jesus, I will."