Discipleship, Love and the Cross

Luke 14: 25 – 27

Christ_Taking_Leave_of_the_ApostlesThe gospels mentioned a number of Jesus’ uncompromising hard sayings that would have bred a level of discomfort to anyone listening. In Luke, while on His way to Jerusalem, He spoke to the crowd following Him of unequivocally hating one’s parents, family and life altogether in order to qualify as His disciple. What did He mean by downgrading affective familial ties as a prerequisite to discipleship? It may seem that obedience to God is tantamount to considering one’s family as enemies, but that position is untenable given Jesus’ instruction relating to enemies (Matt 5:44) and His close family relationships. The emphasis was not how the family was to be perceived per se, but on discipleship – the attributes of being His followers.

To focus away from the family was counter-cultural in an era where strong traditional family life was held up as an ideal. So, for Jesus to claim that only obedience to His voice matters above any others were against the grain of convention, where life generally revolved around one’s family. This further implied that if our intentions of following Him were other than to accede to His will (e.g., to further one’s career), He would not allow Himself to be used. God is God and He desires that His people come to Him for Himself with no agendas of his own.

discipleshipWhat does He mean by “hate?” The Greek can denote “to detest” or “to love less” (cf. Gen 29:30-31) Jesus seemed to have intended the latter in loving someone less affectionately compared to another. Loving or hating members of one’s family is a deeply emotional experience, and He implies that He expected them to reorder their lives to love Him with stronger emotion that eclipses all else, including those who were dear to them. Having said that, we need to be careful that we do not loathe our family in preference to Jesus, that was not His objective.

b13db50ae3c976de6c724cbcf6694791Being totally upfront with His conditions, with no hidden costs, and in full hearing of everyone, Jesus said that in order to relate to Him that way, there were no other options except an unconditional and sacrificial requirement of carrying their crosses; that cross represented the dying to self, to our family, career, and any other interests in life. This disgraceful symbol of execution used as a metaphor reinforced the imagery of a sacrifice that our Saviour was to epitomize later; a man carrying his cross makes only one journey, his last (Gal 2:20). Positionally, although one had died with Christ on the cross (v. 27; Luke 9:23; Col 3:1-4), it is simple to forget this critical position in Christ and become self-absorbed. We are dead in Christ but we have not become dead! This is a learnt process in the spiritual realm as we live life daily; being crucified is slow and painful, and to be His disciple will require patience and fortitude.

The disciples were blessed to have Jesus as their perfect guide and mentor. Discipleship is an intimate accountability process between God and man, and when replicated within the church community for true seekers, at various levels, this onerous and costly lifelong course sets us free from the trappings of life to Discipleshipfollow and know Him. There were many who followed Jesus, but He had few disciples. Dare we aspire to become His disciple in carrying our cross and intensely loving Him?