There was a point in Jesus' life and ministry when he was mobbed by crowds and crowds of people following him. Interestingly enough, Jesus turns to the crowds, and rather than cheering them on and congratulating them for picking a worthy leader, he says:
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). He goes on to say that unless a person bears the weight of his own cross, a literal instrument of torture, he cannot be a disciple of Jesus.
Interesting tactic for growing a ministry, eh? It seems as if Jesus is actually discouraging the crowds from following him...raising the bar so high that most will never reach the level of devotion he is demanding. And yet, we read these words today and rarely give them pause.
Today, I pause.
Hate my family? Hate my own life? What does that mean?! How?! I've heard plenty of sermons where it has been said, "Well, he is just drawing a drastic comparison...your devotion to Jesus should be so great that every other relationship in your life looks like hate." Peachy. And also very, very aloof and ethereal. I've never really understood how this is supposed to actually look in real life. Until this week.
This week, I feel like I am hating my family. I feel like I am choosing to follow Jesus and it means that I sacrifice. A lot. But it also means my family and my friends and my coworkers and my church and my community also sacrifice and grieve and experience loss...because of me. Not because of their choosing. And this weight, this grappling with grief and loss and change, feels like a beam strapped to my back. It feels heavy and hard and unwieldy. Frankly, I would love to just ditch it. I would love to stay in my comfortable little tents of ease and familiarity and steady income. But today, following Jesus means tearing those tents down and trusting that I will still remain under the dome of God's refuge.
In order to say yes to Jesus, I have to say no to a lot of other people. The "no" hurts, but it is necessary for the "yes" to come. So this week I say "no" with tears and groaning and heartache, knowing that Jesus is good and never asks from me what he has not already done himself. I carry this weight, and I lock eyes with the One who carried the weight of the world's pain and brokenness on his back all the way to his death and my resurrected life. Today, I stand apart from my tents, choosing to trust that no matter how hard and costly it is to follow Jesus, it is good because Jesus is good. And that is enough.