Psalm 78:1-39 (Morning)
Psalm 78:40-72 (Evening)
Luke 14:25-35: 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. 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. “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
Many of us find today’s Gospel reading shocking, to say the least. Did we hear that right? Did Jesus really say “hate?” Our tendency is to hope it’s a stretch in translation, but when we look back at the Greek, we are not given a convenient dodge–the word used is miseo, literally meaning “to hate,” or “to be hated.” That knowledge, though, opens up the possibility that the context refers as much to the possibility of a state where all parties involved are brewing in a stew of seething resentment. Relatives have existed in that state over far less. Many of us can identify with a situation where those we love have asked to choose something or someone in an “it’s us or them” fashion. My own life experiences have been riddled with times that someone I loved tried to get me to choose between their desires and the obligations I felt called to in medicine–and the pain we both experienced when I made it clear that medicine came first, still haunts me at times. Likewise, I also can recall my own uncomfortable tendencies to occasionally use that as my excuse for avoiding something I didn’t really want to do. These things cut both ways.
Think for a moment about the uncomfortable situation the disciples must have placed themselves, in their desire to follow Jesus. For some, it required leaving their wives. For others, their parents or the family business. For still others, the prestige and privilege that came with being chummy with the Roman Empire. It must have been, at best, bewildering, and at most, a constantly grating resentment, that their loved one chose to hang out with an itinerant carpenter, gallivanting around the countryside, being mobbed and touched by street people, lepers, and various forms of riff-raff–and worse yet, their loved ones were touching them back…eating with them…and staying in their houses.
Following the call of Jesus is not just uncomfortable for us, it’s uncomfortable for those who love us, and those who think they know us. This election year has illustrated that loving and embracing those who society appears to hate, can ilicit strong negative reactions and accusations to anyone who even considers some of these options. To suggest that the most hated segments of society deserve the same blessings bestowed upon the privileged is scandalous in the eyes of the world, and very likely will provoke a “You want to WHAT?” response, even from many who ascribe to being Christian.
“Give people food and not require them to work for it and earn it? Preposterous!”
“Not require people on welfare to take a drug test? Ridiculous!”
“Let those immigrants have everything I have? Why? They don’t deserve it! They can’t even speak English.”
“Eliminate the death penalty? Don’t you even care about the rights of the victims and their families?”
Perhaps the struggle with all of us, when it comes to values, is the balance between justice and mercy. Each of us is a recipient of mercy–no one can ever “earn” salvation–yet it is also human nature to desire justice. The line between the victims and the perpetrators is very fuzzy indeed. Undoubtedly, none of us ever get it quite right. But it’s a sure bet, that when we truly begin to live like Jesus, our friends and loved ones may well accuse us of being crazier than a loon. There will be resentments when we choose Jesus over them, and, of course, because we are flawed beings, our own inconsistencies will be thrown back in our faces.
Where is Jesus calling you to appear, that might be a place where those you love may well resent you for it?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid