Wednesday, November 24, 2010

the cost of discipleship

‘whoever comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. whoever does not carry my cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 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? otherwise, when he has laid the foundation and is unable to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying: ‘this fellow began to build but was not able to finish’… Luke 14:26-30

Who has heard these words and yet did not fear the command that they imply? Such harsh words, such dreadful words to the ear of the humble Christ-follower. Must we leave our homes like this? How could God demand this of us, I hear some of you cry. Truly, this is a commandment that, in itself, could take a lifetime to fulfill. But this is the demand of Christianity. Are you ready?

but wait, you ask. I thought the task was to love one’s neighbor? Yes, so what is this about hating one’s father and mother? Doesn’t it seem to contradict the commandment ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself? Only look closer: the parable reveals what we have missed. Notice, the tower-builder has the foundation but cannot complete his project. He has overlooked something… Ah, this is turning out much like my previous entry. Our man has forgotten something vital in his relation to God; they have missed the same step (but don’t we all?), but for a different reason. He has laid the foundation but cannot build further because he lacks the necessary materials. We discussed previously that before love to others could take place we must first fulfill the necessary as yourself of the commandment. This is only completed by resting transparently in the Creator and humbling yourself before God and accepting his love and blessing, because He is love. Once you have accepted true love and true blessing from God, who is love, you have learned what it means to have true Christian self-love because you are no longer residing in despair but resting in relation to God, who Himself is love. We also concluded that this is a very difficult, yet certainly not impossible, task for every human being. It requires true openness and ability to see beyond distinction and reach into the infinite, eternal side of man as well as reconciling the temporal and finite side of man. This is how true self-hood is achieved, according to Anti-Climacus.

So now with acquiring the materials for building. Before becoming a true self, there is the double-movement that leads to faith. The movement of resignation is where the finite world is reconciled away in place of the infinite, then followed by the movement of faith under the guidance of God where, on the strength of the absurd, the finite is reclaimed and we can live in the world as a new being in Christ. The first movement of resignation cannot be skipped over and is a necessary step in the Christian’s journey. He must become reconciled to existence before he can truly live in the world. So if this step cannot be skipped, then we must obey the demands it presses on us. Jesus tells us here that whoever comes to me and does not hate his father and mother…cannot be my disciple meaning that in order to be a disciple of Christ we must hate our father and mother. But who can do such a thing? Yet, this is the demand. Again I hear you ringing: how could God demand this of us?

The task is to love your neighbor, which is all men, without distinction, even in their sin and imperfection. without distinction. This task is just as difficult as the first; easily a task that could fulfill a lifetime of work. This is not how we usually perceive our love of others. We often love those we are closest to more than the common individual we see; there are those we hold closer to our hearts than others. This presents a problem for us loving all men equally. Moreover, this present a problem for us loving God with our full attention. Our beloved, our parents, our friends, all these are potential temptations for us. Now, before I go further, let me clarify: what I mean is that we are not to love these until we are able to love them in the right way. As it stands, we do not love them in the right way, at least it is that way for me. It begins with the God-relationship because before you can love another you need to receive love and blessings from God. This helped us to love all the men we see and it is now the same love we are able to use in loving others without distinction.

In as sense, we must earn the ability to have our beloveds or to love our friends or our parents because we must understand that the God-relationship comes first and we must devote an infinite passion to that relationship. Worldly relationships are bound to disappointment, and it is only through the step of faith that worldly disappointment is reconciled away because you then are resting in God where ‘every good and every perfect gift is from above’ (James 1:17). You are no longer disappointed by your relationships in the world. The fear of loving but not being loved in return or being loved less than you are loving an individual often leads one to not giving his full love to anyone but those he chooses. This is not loving in the right way; this is not loving without distinction. Through the God-relationship we have the love of the eternal and the infinite capacity it has to love all men, without distinction, even in their sin and imperfection. So, now you are able to love your beloved, your friend and your parents in the right way, because you have understood true Christian self-love and fulfilled the law as Jesus commanded and can now love your neighbor in truth. But none of this happens if we continue to not hate our mother and father and beloved. Until we have made this step and received the love and blessings individually from God, we cannot possess true, genuine love for that is reserved only for those who first receive it from God, who is love.

Perhaps these words aren’t so dreadful after all. In reality, they help you to love your loved ones better than you ever could alone, for now you have the strength of the eternal on your side. You are really doing them a favor by this because you are now loving them in truth, without distinction, even in their sin and imperfection.

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