When I set out to comment on a text – while I may bring background knowledge with me – I strive to understand the text, its meaning and its importance at the moment I am reading it. So for this passage of scripture I need to figure out how the two went together. Because at first glance they do not seem to connect.
“Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “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. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27)
This is clear enough; or at least a clear as it is going to get. We are not to “hate” family or even friends. That is contradictory to the Christian life. BUT if regard for them gets in the way or stops us from living an authentic Christian life, then we must set aside any affection for them and place our focus on God and Christ. This goes for any other issue, item, possession or concept that is in our life. And that is how the first portion of this passage connects to the second.
“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 a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 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? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” (Verses 28-33)
With the caveat of any other item etc, it is clear to see that one must from the beginning be determined not to let anything, not ANYTHING get in the way of our Christian calling. And that is pretty severe. I know, because I have traveled a hard road to the point I am in my life. Goals, ambition, preconceived ideas, even my own understanding of my life and my world – I have had to set aside. And I will be the first to admit I probably did not do that as well as I could have or should have. But each of us, beloved reader, makes choices according to what he/she knows at the time. We need to extend to ourselves grace when the choices we make do not turn out the way we thought.
Now, this probably does not sound in the way and perspective of what the writer of Luke is saying that Jesus is saying. The Jesus that Luke is quoting sounds pretty definite and a bit harsh to our ears – maybe not to yours, but looking back over my life it sounds harsh to mine. If I had truly followed this to the utmost letter, I would have made choices that would have been devastating to those around me. And I do not think that is what Jesus would have us do.
Listen carefully to the language in verses 28 to 33, and contrast that to the “hate” that is to be expressed to family. If one, for the sake of leading a Christian life, does hate family – how does that fit into “counting the cost”? And yet if one cleaves to family and does not heed the call to the Christian life – how does that fit into “counting the cost”? It is not as cut-and-dried as the write of Luke would have us believe. That is why there MUST be grace and compassion at all steps. At least that is what my road in life has shown me.
I encourage you, beloved reader, to count the cost and factor in compassion and caring. Spread the gospel message but also spread peace. And if you have comments and reflections on this, according to your own perspective, I would invite you to post and share them in the comments section. Shalom!