“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Reference: Luke 9:57-62 )
When you read the gospels and the accounts of Jesus’ ministry literally, it is not surprising that you would envision the Christian life as difficult and one of deprivation. Dirk Philips echoes these sentiments when he reflected on the losses that Jesus talked about and commending one to look to the future for recompense. “Comfort and admonish yourselves among each other with such and similar comforting passages from Holy Scripture, and do not let yourselves be frightened by the tyrants and persecutors, 1 Thess. 2:1ff. . . . Whenever you now look upon the suffering of our Savior, Jesus Christ, then your suffering is not yet to be compared with it. For he was rich (as the apostle says), 2 Cor. 8:9, and for our sake became poor, that he had less than the birds of heaven and the foxes of the earth, Matt. 8:20; Luke 9:59, so that we through his poverty might become rich. Who can wonder then if we for his sake abandon everything and lose the temporal goods, since we have a better possession in heaven?”
Sometimes I extol and praise the willingness of the historic Anabaptists to take on the losses and suffering that was their lives – like yesterday. And sometimes I get impatient with their gloomy and dour outlook on life – like today. But where my impatience is focused most specifically is that they speak of the sadness of loss and suffering but do not speak of the joy in doing it. In other words, if you decide to be a martyr, you don’t get to wimp about it!
I remember quite well when my family was young slaving away in the kitchen or elsewhere in the house while my family took their ease. It frustrated me to no end that I was stuck with all the chores while everyone else benefited from my labor. I took myself strongly in hand and said, “You are the one who is making yourself work like this for whatever reason you think there is. If you resent it so much, don’t do it. Make a different plan. But if you choose to do this, you have to set down the attitude.” So I did. I decided in my own mind that if I played out the servant role I had to do it willingly. If I didn’t want to be the servant, I had to speak my mind and let my family know what I was willing and not willing to do. And it was very liberating.
So let’s back at what Philips says. He says the historic Anabaptists were to comfort themselves with the fact that Jesus was homeless too. But the problem is, Jesus was not really homeless. He had a home. And he had friends and family who offered him and his disciples places to stay and refresh themselves.
Philips cites 2 Corinthians 8:9 saying that Jesus made himself poor. But that was not of physical possessions but giving up divinity for a time and taking on a human role. And it was only because of his divine nature that he could “suffer” as he did. That is why his suffering can not be compared to the historic Anabaptists’, and not because they suffered less than Christ did.
The historic Anabaptists did, as do many other forerunners of new faith traditions do, is overdue their clinging to the new ways of faith and thinking. For I tell you beloved, if the historic Anabaptists DID NOT leave the area they first established their faith in, there would not have been anyone to pass the traditions on. Adherence to discipleship, as I said yesterday, is a very good thing. But allowing sacrifice and self-sacrifice to swallow up everything means the new faith tradition will never have the chance to become an established faith tradition. We must find a place between the two extremes – blind devotion resulting in extinction and lax values/priorities that result in being indistinguishable in the larger society.
May you beloved find the good path of discipleship so that you can carry on the sacred traditions that define your beliefs. Selah!