Sunday, March 24, 2013

Disciples & Servants.4

"Consider that which you possess in this life, family, money, and earthly possessions. Unless you are willing to make a total commitment, even of what you cherish, you cannot truly follow me."
--Jesus

Many years ago as a student at Michigan State University while walking across campus I was attracted to the powerful sound of an itinerant preacher. A good crowd was gathered around and I soon learned that a new church was being organized that summer. As my wife and I began to meet more of the people associated with the group we learned their stories of sacrifice to come from around the country to help form this fledgling fellowship. Many were newlyweds like us, some even with small children. Others had given up jobs or school to help in the project. 

I had been a Christian for many years but had never experienced the kind of sacrificial obedience I saw in this group. Nor had I ever experienced the richness of love, faith & fellowship that I did that summer and for many years afterwards.

Years later as a pastor in another denomination, I was traveling with a companion to a conference out of state. Unable beforehand to contact some old friends from the former fellowship, I decided to drive to their home on the way to our destination. As I expected, they welcomed us with great joy and insisted we stay the night even though they had just arrived back home from their own travels out of state.

The next day as we resumed our journey, my friend remarked, "I don't know anyone I could just show up at their house and be embraced with such love like these friends of yours!" I said, "I know people all over the country who are just like these good folks and would have just as much confidence they'd welcome us at anytime day or night!"

How sad that my friend's experience with other Christians was so shallow. But it illustrates Jesus' insistence that in order to truly experience the richness of our relationship with Him we must willingly commit everything to Him. For He knows that the only way a human being can truly understand the value of anything, more importantly, to experience the depth of love and closeness we long for, is to sacrifice ourselves for that thing.

In fact, the Hebrew word for sacrifice, Korban, has at its root the idea of "close or related". The old testament requirement for sacrifices was not to placate a vengeful God, but to help people draw closer in heart to God. In our human experience, parents most often feel a deeper love for their children because of the daily sacrifices they make for their children's welfare, comfort and protection. Children who do not honor or reciprocate in any meaningful way are more likely than not to grow up resentful or ungrateful for their parent's sacrifices.*

As a follower of Jesus, if we want to experience the depth of relationship we long for with our Lord and His other followers, we must live a life that demonstrates the value we place on that relationship by giving the things we cherish up to him...daily! Why, because that is what He does for us...daily!

(* thoughts on Korban from Rabbi Daniel Lapin's book, Buried Treasure, which I highly recommend!)