December 29 — Following Him
Read Luke 14:25-26
Luke wrote his account of Jesus’ life from a unique perspective among the Gospel writers: he was a Gentile, the only known non-Jewish author in the New Testament. He was a friend and traveling companion of Paul. His Gospel account is written as the first of two parts, the second being the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Together, they form a two-volume set telling the story of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the history of the early church.
One of the themes of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life is that people of all situations were important to Him. Jesus is seen healing the sick, causing the blind to see, welcoming and embracing children, and reaching out to the forgotten and ignored.
In this passage, however, Jesus challenges the people following Him. His words sound harsh: “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple” (14:26 The Message). There is no ‘wiggle room’ in these words; if you don’t put the relationship with Christ above every other relationship, you cannot be His disciple. He must be more important than your family. You must even put Christ above your own desires and ambitions.
The point that Jesus is making here is at the heart of true Christianity. In many cases, people have thought of being a disciple of Christ much the same way they have looked at a “Get Out of Jail Free” card in the board game Monopoly. When you get in trouble in this life, you play your “Christian” card, and Jesus will get you out of trouble. Or, when you pass from this life, you play your “Christian” card, and Jesus keeps you out of Hell. Christianity, in this way of thinking, is more like a membership in an exclusive club. It’s very useful in certain situations, but it doesn’t necessarily affect your daily life.
Jesus is teaching a much different concept. A disciple is a follower. Being a Christian is not like owning an insurance policy; it is a way of life. Becoming a Christian provides certain benefits (a relationship with the living God among them!), but it is the beginning of the journey rather than the end. It is the difference between enrolling in college and graduating from college. When you enroll, you have begun the process of obtaining a degree, but you don’t actually obtain the degree until you graduate. Many Christians think that when they ask Christ into their hearts, they have graduated when, in reality, they have just started the process of following Jesus.
Do you agree that becoming a Christian is like enrolling in college rather than graduating from college? Why or why not?
To carry the college analogy a little further, Jesus is also teaching something about the course of study. He is saying that He is the “major course,” and that everything else in life should be filtered through our relationship with Him. If you study Him, following Him to the best of your ability, everything else falls into place. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” (New Living Translation). It’s not that you’re placed in isolation so that you only come in contact with Him. It is that He changes you so that you see your relationships the way that He sees them. In fact, His Spirit flows through you, relating to others through you. All your relationships begin with Him and are guided by Him.
How would your relationships change if they started with Jesus and were guided by Him?