Luke 14:25-33 (NRSV)
25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
For six years I taught philosophy and ethics to post-secondary students, the majority of whom were the first person in their families to attempt any type of education after completing high school or the GED. I focused on introducing them to differing ways of considering how humans ought to act, to decide what is right or wrong, to consider how behaviors reflect values and beliefs.
These were challenging courses. The very notion that there were other ways to think or believe than those that the students had assumed were universal caused tension. Rigorous reading, writing, and research, by deadlines no less, required complicated restructuring of their expectations and time management.
Some friends and family, initially proud that the student was going to “make something of themselves,” became less supportive when students were not free to go out, needed more help with children, began to talk about ideas, people and events that seemed “too bougie”. As students changed, they would sometimes report that people in their churches, neighborhoods, families, or social groups felt betrayed, that the new student displayed cultural/group disloyalty.
Therefore, I began to talk with my students early in each course about how learning requires change, and results in change, in language, ideas, interests, discernment, and behaviors. I warned them that there could be folks around them that they like or love very much, folks with whom they share a long history that will sense the changes as their pulling away. They may even passively sabotage the students efforts to succeed, i.e., become different.
There will always be those who will not or cannot travel alongside the one committed to a new way of being in the world. One student reported that her pastor forbid her to continue her ethics course. It was dangerous to ask too many questions. She chose to attend every class.
Luke reports Jesus telling the crowd that, before any choose to embrace this way of being, they need to know that heart-rending challenges may lie ahead. Discipleship cannot merely be an add-on to life as we have known it. Discipleship is not a badge, token, decoration, club, entertainment, costume, award, or reward. At some point, or daily, we will have to renounce and step away from (“hate”) other ways of being in the world. I see no evidence that Jesus feels hatred toward the crowd. He loves us, heals us, teaches us, forgives us, and daily invites each to live discipleship.
[Pam Senko, LMHC, has been a CCC member for 20+ years, currently a Deacon; she is working at Pedigo Clinic with homeless individuals.]
'Bougie' (pronounced boo'-she) is a hacked truncation of the word Bourgeoisie, which refers to the middle-class in Europe, but refers to a more affluent class level in the United States.
Jesus’ words in these verses seem harsh and firm. I have noticed we seem to change to harsher words when life changes quickly and brings us challenges and things we would often rather ignore, avoid or not work on. Things like this stir up a lot of emotions.
It must have been a shock to hear things like: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sister, yes even life itself. He cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, he cannot be my disciple.” Is Jesus angry because people do not understand what he is trying to do? Who he is? It does seem people did not understand
We often think of a cross as a witness to our faith, but years ago crosses were used to crucify people. They meant pain-filled deaths in public, being nailed to the cross after carrying your cross through the city, long and painful ways to die. I wonder what Jesus will say when he returns about our wearing crosses. Words change and people change in many ways.
Jesus was trying to teach his disciples and followers that he did not come as the warrior God who would rescue his people. He wanted to teach them about loving their neighbors as their self, sacrificing for the good of others, feeding the hungry and having a strong faith.
Jesus knew what he was going to do, including dying on the cross. The disciples thought he would be the next king of Israel, but that was not Jesus’ plan. He was trying to teach his followers they needed to bear their own cross. The followers needed to let go of the families and even themselves or they could not be a disciple of Jesus. They needed to be leaders and makes serious plans in order to be able to model how to be a follower of Jesus.
They needed to learn what type of changes to make in their life so they would reflect Jesus and his teachings in all they do. They would not do that if they didn’t learn the way things would be with Jesus as the Messiah who has finally come.
I remember when I volunteered at a food and clothing pantry when my children were young and starting school. It was run by volunteers from several Baptist churches downtown and surrounding counties. They started talking about starting a church for the homeless and whoever wanted to come. I prayed, “Should I take my family to the mission for church, too?” I decided to ask three people of faith I knew at my church if I should go to the mission with my family. I was surprised to hear them all say no. They all told me to stay safely in our church, as it might not be safe for us to go to a mission. God provided no peace with their answers. As people came to the food pantry and asked me if I would be there if they came to the new mission church. I soon was saying yes. It was an amazing experience for me and my family.
Often, we find people around who will discourage us from doing what we are called to do. Regretfully I do not always hear what God is saying. I wonder, as I look at my jury duty card, what lessons will come with being on jury duty in September.
[The Rev. Karen Estle is one of the Sunday morning Bible study teachers, an Elder and a member of the Spiritual Growth Team.]