[July 28]--Following Jesus

Matt. 8:18-22

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s very relevant to today’s reading, so I have to repeat myself to some degree. There's a lot within the “Seeker-Sensitive” movement within Christianity to recommend it. If a lost person comes into a worship service and feels uncomfortable, it should only be because the Holy Spirit is convicting him of his sin and his need for Christ, and not for any other reason (like the music style or the dress code). Although not explicitly committed to that exact philosophy, our church still tries its hardest to carry out that principle, and I’m very glad of that.

But there’s a grave danger within this movement, and every church--whether expressly "seeker-sensitive" or not--has to vigilantly guard against it. The problem is that pastors tend to emphasize quantity over quality when it comes to making followers of Christ. Making the numbers is not just the most important thing-sometimes it’s the only thing that matters. Some pastors would rather have 1,000 half-hearted church members than 20 really on-fire disciples of Jesus. So sin is sometimes excused, even among professing believers. People come forward to “make a profession of faith,” they might even go to a new member’s class, and they're baptized as quickly as possible. And then the pastor is wondering why so many people “come in the front door and exit the back.”

If they were to follow the example of the Master, then this problem could be largely avoided (of course, even he retained only 11 out of 12). When someone came to him and said “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go,” most pastors would've jumped at a convert like this. A lot of ministers would respond with “That’s wonderful! Let’s say a prayer, fill out this membership card, and schedule your baptism! And can you teach next week in Sunday School?” But our Lord didn’t respond like that. Notice the wisdom in his answer. He didn’t just turn the man away and say, “No, not interested in any more disciples. Thanks for applying.” But he wanted the man to understand the full implications of following him, or as he later put it, “Estimate the cost.” Jesus was (at that point) homeless. If this prospective follower was expecting to live in a palace and spend his days counting the money he was raking in, he needed to find another teacher to follow.

And then another man, whom Jesus actually pursued, answered in a different way. Jesus’ response might seem shocking to modern hearers, but trust me, your shock is nothing compared to the shock of his original audience. In that culture, for someone to forsake his father at the time of death would be literally unthinkable. Now to be fair, his father probably wasn’t dead yet, and who could tell when he'd pass on? But that doesn’t much lessen the impact of this.

Does this mean that we should avoid being around our parents in their dying moments, and skip out on the funeral, in order to follow Christ? For most people, no. The One who told us to “honor your parents” in his Top Ten Commandments isn’t likely to contradict himself here. But there might come a time in which we have to choose between Christ or our parents, and we have to make the right decision. If the Lord, under special circumstances, calls us to “abandon” our parents, then he'll provide for them. For some of us, this might mean we do things in following the Master of which our parents don’t approve. Ask any believer who came from a Jewish or Muslim background, and for them this dilemma is more than academic or theoretical. They made the choice to obey God rather than their parents, and most of them have paid an enormous price. But whatever that price was, they’ll tell you it was worth it.

Lord Jesus, yes. Whatever you want me to do, wherever you want me to go, whatever you want me to sacrifice, the answer is “yes.”

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