In order to be gospel Christians we have to learn to hate any allegiance that attempts to eclipse our Lord or to diminish Christ’s church.
The uncomfortable Jesus
Jesus was one for making remarkably discomforting statements.
Among them is this: “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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. . . . Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27; 33).
I can’t say I’ve preached on this verse or its parallels in the other gospels.
It’s not too hard to guess why. Not only is it a verse to make the congregation awkward; it does the same to the preacher.
It calls for careful exposition in order to avoid the sloppy excesses of radicalism on the one hand and apathy on the other.What place then does this verse in the life of the believer and in the life of the church? The answer: a central place that must not be overshadowed.
Jesus relativizes our allegiances
There is a significant body of research on how Jesus relatives allegiances that would have been immensely significant in the ancient world.
In other words, Jesus takes the most important relationships in the culture of his time and–without denying or diminishing them–shows that they are of only relative importance in relationship to our identity as members of the mystical body of Christ, the church.
Father and mother? Wonderful. Are you willing to renounce them, to abandon them, if they attempt to stand between you and Christ?
Brothers and sisters? Great. Are you willing to turn your back on them if they attempt to keep you from following Christ?
Your own life? Are you willing to turn from the life you once knew in order to follow Jesus?
Every baptized Christian has made an oath to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil.
To be truthful, we tend to echo St. Augustine’s prayer for continence at some future, unspecified date. We’ll start our diet, so to speak, after this last piece of cake.
How do we understand these verses?
Applying these verses to our lives is relatively straightforward (in discussing rather than doing) when we’re dealing with garden variety sins.
The problem is, however, that these particular words of Christ have no disclaimer limiting their scope to only those things ordinarily perceived to be sins by contemporary evangelical believers.
Would that they did; the list is getting shorter everyday.
No, the First Commandment demonstrates God’s insistence that we not displace Him: “you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The gods that displace God are simply idols. They are, in a matter of speaking, fake gods with now power to redeem or save us from our sins.
It has become trite to insist that the fish struggles to notice that it swims in water rather than something else. Yet, it is true.
Those who are, like me, white Christians have grown up–be it in the United States or Europe–not only as part of the majority culture, but as part of a culture “rigged”–again in a manner of speaking–to serve us at the price of exploiting others.
We are not used to placing race in the arena of things in which God is calling us to confess and repent. Like the fish white Christians fail to easily perceive that the ecosystem in which we thrive is toxic for others.
Can white people be saved?
If Jesus is to be taken seriously, however, we cannot approach him in faith unless and until we are willing and enabled to see that have made our whiteness something of an idol.
Our whiteness stands astride the path of grace that leads us to the cross. We cannot come to Jesus without “hating” it. Unless and until we see our race as something we are willing to lay down at the cross then we (white people) cannot be saved .
This is not the social gospel
I am not willing nor am I able to make policy suggestions to the government on this matter. I will leave that others.
And if the Holy Spirit and the Word of God convinct you, you must fly from sin and fly to the cross.