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Reflections on Luke 14:25-35

25Now great crowds accompanied [Jesus], and he turned and said to them, 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

34“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:25–35)

In the above Gospel, Jesus says some pretty startling things.  He speaks of hating members of your own family, hating yourself, bearing your cross, and renouncing all that you have.  If you do not do these things, Jesus says, you cannot be His disciple.

Wait a minute!  I thought God gave the commandment to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12, 4th Commandment).  He commands fathers and mothers to love their children (Colossians 3:21; Titus 2:4), husbands to love their wives (Ephesians 5; Colossians 3:19), and, in general, to “love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8; etc.).  Our Lord also says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

And with reference to cross, isn’t the Christian life supposed to be easier than when one becomes Christian.  What does Jesus mean when He says that every disciple is to “bear his own cross”?

At first glance, Jesus’ word, “hate,” might seem to contradict what we find elsewhere in the Bible.  But in actuality, it doesn’t.  Jesus is not here speaking of emotion.  He’s speaking of distinguishing between earthly and heavenly things.  It is true—God does command us to love one another—unconditionally, unequivocally, and unselfishly (i.e. 1 Corinthians 13).  But our Lord differentiates between what is to be first from what is not.

A related passage is in Matthew 10, where Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37, italics mine).

It’s a matter of true worship and honor of God or idolatry.  “No one can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13).  In the same way, no one can have God first and parent, child, spouse, self or anyone or anything else.  It’s an either/or kind of thing.  And this is just our problem.  God is not first in our lives.  If He was, everywhere and all the time, we wouldn’t doubt, we wouldn’t complain, we would willingly suffer the things said against us and the things done to us because we do what God desires.  As it is, however, we are not as God desires.  We put ourselves first, our families, our finances, our friends, and our time (i.e. on Sundays when we ought to be in the Word).

What these words of our Lord show us is that none are able, of themselves, to be His disciples.  Our crosses we want to throw off.  Our burdens we don’t want to carry.  The Christian life, we think, should be easier, not harder.  The Christian shouldn’t suffer as he/she does.  In effect, we aren’t able to be Jesus’ disciple because of who we are by nature, because of what we do, because of our sin.

The truth is—none are the Lord’s disciple because of who he/she is.  We are sinners—not worthy of the Lord—not worthy to be called disciple.  But no disciple who is a disciple is a disciple of themselves, by themselves, for themselves, or in their own strength.

God calls the unworthy, the sinner, the unable—to be His people.  It is such that Jesus came to deliver and save.  The disciple of our Lord recognizes this—that his/her worthiness is not his/her own, but Christ’s.  Therefore does Jesus say, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

The disciple of our Lord recognizes his need, and looks to Jesus for help and aid, forgiveness and salvation.  Thus will he/she also struggle and fight within, that Christ and His Word be first, and not something other.  So also does the disciple of the Lord seek to forsake all, for Christ is “all in all” (Ephesians 1:23).  Christ is his everything, and where Christ is not, the disciple repents and seeks to do better.  And by God’s grace, he does, God giving strength to do so through His means of Word and Sacrament.  These, too, the disciple of our Lord seeks and desires, for they are His life, for there, God forgives sins and gives life and strength, and keeps His people in the faith.  Those who deny and refuse such gifts and blessings of our Lord show that they are not of the Lord and do not love God above all things, for they do not believe themselves to be in need of such help.  By doing so, they show that they are not disciples of the Lord, but disciples of another.

Reflections on the words ‘missionary,’ and ‘call’


In the rhetoric of today’s church, clarity is greatly lacking.  Confusion abounds, often due to sloppy language (of which I am also guilty).  Technical language is left to academics, while words in the non-academic world are thrown around left and right and can mean anything and everything under the sun.

Missionary

Take the word missionary, for example.  Today, without hesitation, men and women are called ‘missionaries,’ even with the LCMS.  Historically, the word missionary was reserved for the man only (like the pastor), for only the man was the called and ordained servant of the Word ‘called’ to preach and teach.  Missionary used to refer to one who proclaimed the Gospel to a foreign people, baptized, catechized, and even distributed the Lord’s Supper to those who were united in the same confession of faith.

Today, the word missionary has additional meanings.  It sometimes means the above, but more often than not, it refers to a person who serves (often in another country, but not necessarily so) the physical needs of the people and not primarily the Gospel proclamation.  Thus, missionary today has a broader definition, which is not a little confusing.

Churches now call husbands and wives missionaries, though according to Scripture, only men are to preach publicly (1 Timothy 2:12).  This is not in the least consistent with proper theology.

Certainly, needs exist for humanitarian aid.  But why call them ‘missionaries,’ esp. since that word implies public proclamation of the Word?  It wouldn’t hurt to refer to those who help others simply as Christians, or even servants.  It at least would keep the distinctions clearer.  Perhaps such terms might sound less ‘godly’ or pious to our human ego.  But they are according to Holy Scripture.

By the way, in the dictionary, missionary is someone who is sent on a mission.  One might ask, then, what kind of mission is the missionary sent on?  Maybe this would help clarify.  For some reason, we in the church seem to have guilt if somehow we only help others in their physical need, as if we shouldn’t take joy in this, or as if this is ‘not enough’.  Certainly, the Gospel is to be proclaimed.  But I find it interesting that few, it seem, rejoice in simply helping others, and in alone helping others.  Guilt seems to pervade among Christians if only physical help is given.  Maybe that’s why that word missionary is used today.  We don’t want to imply that we only help people in their physical needs and nothing more.  Would it be so wrong, however, simply to do so, and give thanks to the Lord for doing so, rejoicing even in it? (Luke 10:37).

Call

“Call” in the church historically meant a solemn call from God to serve in a particular service (i.e. A pastor is “called” to serve a congregation as pastor).  St. Paul also talks about “callings,” with the sense of vocation (i.e. parent, spouse, child, teacher, etc.; 1 Corinthians 7).

In the LCMS, call in the past has referred exclusively to pastors “called” to congregations.   This kind of call is non-durative.  It is a call with no established time limits (Today there is debate about this in  our circles, for missionaries, interim pastors, and others, though “called,” are given a certain time frame for their service, though this is contrary to a Scriptural understanding of “call” and our understanding of the word).  Stopping at this point, again, confusion ensues.

Now, add the word “call” for a Parochial school teacher, principal, or District executive for schools.  The word “call” here is often used in connection with a contract, based on the performance of the “called worker,” with an “evaluation” of that performance by an individual or group given such responsibility (by the congregation, school, or even district).  Such a process sounds a lot like “hiring” and not calling in the Scriptural sense—more in line with the secular world, but not the church.  Another question raised is the basis/content of such evaluation (the Word, character, activity, performance, results, etc.).

The word “call” here might be used to sound more ‘churchly,’ even as the word “missionary” has now taken on the meaning of “helper” apart from the public proclamation of the Gospel.  But what would be wrong in simply saying “hire,” even for a teacher or principal or district executive for schools?  Maybe the answer is…nothing.  At least in this way, we would be more honest and consistent in our vocabulary, calling a thing what it is and not further blurring distinctions.

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