2 Kings 2: 1 – 2, 6 – 14
Galatians 5: 1, 13 – 25
Luke 9: 51 – 62
If ever there were evidence of how dislocated modern society is from God, it is the extent to which we have almost ceased trying to do God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven. If you take the temperature out there it is very noticeable that in society at large a concern for God’s priorities has almost disappeared.
Our values have grown strongly anti-Christian.
The role-model for so-called success in most minds is the successful and ruthless business person, preferably one whose strength and intelligence has seen them triumph where others have fallen by the wayside.
The fruit of the Spirit (by definition the character of Jesus, whom we are meant to imitate) says St Paul, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control.
God’s ways are probably best summed up in the word gentleness, but there is a severity in the determination required to carry out that gentle lifestyle and it is a severity we apply to our own self-centredness: what Paul in our Galatians reading refers to as the flesh.
This tension between gentleness and severity is evident throughout Scripture.
Elisha, for all his bravado and dramatic walloping the Jordan river crying, Where is the God of Elijah?, was a business man who had decided that the pursuit of wealth was secondary to following God. He was ploughing with twelve pairs of oxen when Elijah called him into the prophetic ministry. He dropped everything to pursue a life of hardship and opposition in order to serve God. Sometimes following God requires us to leave the success we have enjoyed and take on the form of a servant.
Our own St Peter was a businessman who left all to follow Jesus; and it took him quite a while to learn the gentleness of God.
Jesus, having rebuked his disciples for their machismo (wanting to call fire down upon a Samaritan village) clearly has in mind this tension between the gentleness of God’s ways and the severity of the perseverance required to live those ways.
The severity we need to apply to ourselves is well described in our Gospel passage:
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
Of course God doesn’t require us to be dismissive of our families and those who have claims upon us, but when they place pressure upon us that might cause us to compromise our discipleship, it is quite clear where our priorities lie, and Jesus illustrates this with a touch of hyperbole.
So in conclusion, it takes guts to follow Jesus. It sometimes takes a great deal of self-sacrifice. But most of all it involves a love of the ways of heaven and a desire to see them lived out here on earth.
And no matter how tough it is walking in Jesus’ footsteps, 100% of people who have chosen to do so testify to its being the best choice they ever made. Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats being a disciple bent upon seeing the Kingdom of God flourish here on earth as it does in heaven.