May 12, 2008
The Weekly Newsletter of True Potential Publishing
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sistersâ€”yes, even his own lifeâ€”he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
The Road Not Taken
Hate my father and mother? Brothers and sisters? Sounds a bit harsh doesnâ€™t it? Not much of a Mothers Days weekend topic, Steve. Any other cheerful aphorisms you want to lay on us while we plan our special day with mom?
That verse and its twin, Matthew 10:37 are whatâ€™s known as red letter verses. Some Bibles have all the words Jesus actually said Himself printed in red ink. That way you know Jesusâ€™ actual words from the rest of the Bible.
Want to know what else is in red letters? “â€¦ unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) Thatâ€™s a tough one to explain to a third grade Sunday school class. Iâ€™ll bet they donâ€™t make flannel-graphs for that verse.
Jesus said a lot of disturbing things.
Do you really think He wanted folks to hate their mothers and eat His flesh and drink His blood?
But, for a lot of us, He was saying something equally radical. Unless youâ€™re willing to walk away from everything you know and everything you value, everything thatâ€™s secure and meaningful in your life, youâ€™re not worthy to become my follower. To people who put their families ahead of everything else, that meant mom and dad and brother and sister. To a young rich ruler, it meant selling everything he had and following Jesus. To the crowds who couldnâ€™t see past Jesusâ€™ miraculous bread and fish dinners, it meant forgetting about food and feasting on Who He really was.
Jesus was a radical. He told His followers, unless youâ€™re prepared to be a radical too, donâ€™t bother coming along. This disciple thing ainâ€™t no hobby. Unless youâ€™re willing to despise everything this world has given you, family, friends, wealth, security, sustenance, even your own life, for the sake of following Him, donâ€™t bother coming along.
It still sounds harsh.
Thereâ€™s got to be a happy medium â€¦doesnâ€™t there?
Sorry, thereâ€™s not. Youâ€™re in or out, thatâ€™s the deal. By the way, Jesus lost a lot of â€˜disciplesâ€™ every time he said something like this. Only the radicals stayed around.
Iâ€™ve got some good news for you though. Jesus loves you. The One who wants you to give up whatâ€™s dearest to you, gave up His life so you could live forever.
Another piece of good news? Heâ€™s not interested in you hating your mom and dad and He doesnâ€™t necessarily want to you to go through life penniless or hungry. That wasnâ€™t the point.
This is what He meant – If youâ€™re going to follow me, someday youâ€™re going to get hit with a choice. It may be: follow what mom and dad have planned for you of follow what God has planned for you. It may be: keep the money and possessions youâ€™ve worked all your life to acquire or give it all away and embark on a mission only you know is true. It may be: remain in your daily grub for sustenance because itâ€™s a known quantity or give up your loaves and fishes and feast on food that will wake up your soul.
If you want to follow Him, the day will come when you have to decide whatâ€™s important. It always does. If youâ€™re not willing to let go of everything youâ€™ve got, donâ€™t follow along.
I learned a poem in high school. The only poem Iâ€™ve ever memorized. As a high school kid I thought it was pretty impressive to know any poem that didnâ€™t start with “Jack be nimble.”
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them both about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I â€“
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost wrote that. I rewrote it from memory â€¦ after all these years. Iâ€™m still impressed.
Iâ€™ll be fifty next week.
My high school wrestling coach, Gary Bowden, was inducted into the California Wrestling Hall of Fame last weekend. Iâ€™m proud of him, he deserves the honor. I couldnâ€™t be there to see it. The east coast is a long way from the west coast.
Iâ€™ll call Mom on Sunday. Iâ€™ll wish her a happy Motherâ€™s Day and sheâ€™ll wish me a happy birthday. Weâ€™re due a visit. And weâ€™ll do it when we can, we always do. But the east coast is a long way from the west coast.
You never give up your life without getting back much more in return.
Funny thing, you get back the stuff you gave up too â€¦ only better. In the last couple of weeks Iâ€™ve spoken with high school team mates I hadnâ€™t heard from in thirty years. Each of us recognized the otherâ€™s voice in an instant and three decades faded away like wisps of smoke.
When we do make a trip to visit family out west, itâ€™s a real reunion. Brothers and sisters all show up; all with their own families. We get to meet the newbies, born in and married in, since our last visit. Momâ€™s always tickled at all the bodies and commotion. And it always ends happy/sad and much too soon, but always wonderful.
But the life I got by giving up the life I had is far beyond anything I could have created on my own. It is the one I was meant to have. I have a family and a mission and a relationship with my Master. And they are the ones I was meant to have.
It took a long time to really understand the poem. Frost was right – it has made all the difference.
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) Another one of those red letter verses.
Until next week.
Telling this with a sigh,