Jesus speaks to a large crowd whose overly enthusiastic zeal may prevent them from seeing the serious nature of what following him requires. This journey toward Jerusalem does not parade to the castle; it processes to the cross. Following Jesus is no easy path, so the word of teaching cannot be easy either.
In Jesus’ time, the word hate did not carry today’s meaning of an angry outburst. It meant simply to turn away from or to release from something. He is not instructing the people to quit loving and caring for family, but he does want them to understand clearly that following him can bring to light competing loyalties. In the face of the complexities of relationships that clamor for our attention, following Jesus must remain primary. The decision to place our relationship with Jesus above all other networks and allegiances is never easy. We will find that the primacy of that relationship with Jesus can actually help define our other life commitments.
As a teen, when my parents asked me to do something I often said, “I have some other things to do first.” Needless to say, my parents did not find this an acceptable answer. They would quickly inform me that their instruction was first and foremost, and the other things would have to wait.
Jesus asks us to decide whether he can be the primary allegiance in our life. It is a timely word of challenge for a frantically paced culture. We want to have and do it all. However, genuine discipleship is not an afterthought; it is a way of life.
Lord God, give me the courage and strength to follow Jesus and place him first in my life. Amen.
The Gospel lesson stresses the cost of disci- pleship. One of the costs involves family, but the implication is that there are compensations as well as costs. Belonging to God affects the way in which one belongs to others. Traditional pat- terns, kinship and otherwise, are transformed. This insight lies at the heart of Paul’s letter to Philemon concerning Philemon’s slave, Onesimus. Without directly requesting that Philemon set Onesimus free, Paul clearly suggests that the ties that bind per- sons as brothers and sisters in Christ transform traditional social patterns, including slavery. Both Jeremiah 18 and Psalm 139 af rm our belongingness to God, individually and corporately.
• Read Jeremiah 18:1-11. How has the “word of the Lord” come to you? What obstacles prevent you from placing your- self entirely in God’s hands?
• Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. How does your life evidence God’s handiwork?
• Read Philemon 1-21. What person or group needs your advocacy in the name of Christ?
• Read Luke 14:25-33. How have you counted the cost of fol- lowing Jesus?
Respond by posting a prayer.