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(Part 34)


June 27, 2010

Today’s readings
1 Kings 19:16-21
Psalm 16:1-11
Galatians 5:1-18
Luke 9:51-62

Jesus calls everyone to follow him.

Since that is not an easy thing to do, Jesus does not call us under false pretenses. He does not just present the blessings that will come, but also the difficulties and challenges. And so it was with one would-be follower of Jesus. Bursting with enthusiasm, he exclaimed, “I will follow you wherever you go.” (Lk 9:57). Jesus told him that the one he proposes to follow does not have a place to call home and oftentimes has no rest (Lk 9:58).

But when one has decided to follow him, Jesus expects a firm response and a total commitment.

One Jesus called said he would follow, but only after his father had died. He was a good man who was mindful of his obligation to care for his aging father. But Jesus told him that the proclamation of the kingdom of God was of far greater importance, and so had the greater priority (Lk 9:60).

Another also said he would follow, but wanted to spend some time with his family first and arrange his family affairs. Again he was a good man who cared for his loved ones. He was going to follow Jesus, but wanted some final quality time with his family. But Jesus told him that if he had decided to follow, that he needed to be free of any sentimental attachments that would hinder his work for the kingdom of God (Lk 9:62). Indeed, how many missionaries are troubled by loneliness and pining for the comforts of home, such that their work is adversely affected?

Jesus is not being unreasonable. Rather, he is stressing the importance of following him and of being focused on and committed to the work that we have already decided to embrace. He knows that there will be many distractions, attractions and obstructions. Unless one is firmly committed, his following Christ will always be under threat.

And so if we decide to follow Jesus, we should do so totally and without reservation.

This is what Elisha did. Elijah called him to the prophetic mission, as he was plowing the field. Elisha responded by slaughtering the yoke of oxen, burning the plowing equipment as fuel to cook their flesh, and giving the food to his people (1 Kgs 19:21). Elisha burned his bridges. He destroyed his means of doing agricultural work. There was no turning back.

It is the same with us. We cannot be lukewarm. We cannot keep our worldly options open. We cannot have an ace up our sleeve just in case things do not work out. We cannot have a Plan B when we have decided to follow Jesus.

Jesus went all out in carrying out the Father’s plan. Jesus went all out for us. He held nothing back. He endured every affliction and gave his life in the end. If we are to be his followers, then he expects us to do the same.

Practically speaking, what does such following of Jesus mean?

First, we are to have no other gods in our lives. Some of us do. We have already chosen to follow Jesus, but we still look to other gods. These might be money, power, position, worldly pleasure, or the like. We are reminded by David: “Worthless are all the false gods of the land. Accursed are all who delight in them. They multiply their sorrows who court other gods.” (Ps 16:3-4a). Our response is firm: “Blood libations to them I will not pour out, nor will I take their names upon my lips.” (Ps 16:4b).

Second, we are no longer to submit to slavery. “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1). We were enslaved to the world, the flesh and the devil. We had worldly and materialistic values and attractions, we succumbed to the demands of our flesh for pleasure and comfort, we were dictated to by Satan. But Jesus has set us free from all these. However, there will always be that continuing inner struggle within us. So we need to stand firm.

Third, we are to live in and by the Spirit. This is the way to overcome the flesh. “I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16). But beyond overcoming the flesh, it is the way by which we take on the very nature of Christ. It is how we can become holy. It is how we can strictly follow God’s ways. It is how we can be empowered by the Spirit to help build the kingdom and keep our commitment to Jesus.

So we are called to leave everything behind in order to follow Jesus. What can we look forward to if we do so?

First, our future is secure. In fact, our future can only be secure if it is in Christ. Know that God has a wonderful plan for us. He has destined us from all eternity for greatness in Him. If we accept Him as our very life, if we submit and conform to His way of life for us, if we trust in Him for everything, then we have a great future to look forward to. “Lord, my allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure.” (Ps 16:5).

Second, God will bring us to pleasant places, in this life and ultimately in the next. God shows us the path to true life, a life lived in Him. This is a path of great delights and joys, even as it would include suffering and pain. “You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence” (Ps 16:11a). And after a delightful life on earth, we look forward to heaven, to “the delights at your right hand forever.” (Ps 16:11b).

What then do we do, if we are to truly follow Christ? How do we keep on track after we have decided to follow him?

First, we must always keep our focus on Jesus. “I keep the Lord always before me” (Ps 16:8a). We pray everyday, we read the Bible every day, we are mindful of the Lord’s presence and action in our life all through the day. We do not allow ourselves to be distracted by the world, or if we are, then we turn quickly to Jesus. We discipline our flesh. We reject the allures of Satan. We look to Jesus to guide us through life and see us through the ups and downs.

Second, since pain and suffering will be part of our day-to-day lives, we always take our refuge in Jesus. “Keep me safe, O God; in you I take refuge.” (Ps 16:1). We do not look to alcohol or drugs or illicit pleasures. We do not turn away from our Christian commitments. We do not lose hope. We do not lose our joy. And we always trust that Jesus will see us through.

Third, even as we always hope in Christ, we live out fully the virtues of faith and love. “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Gal 5:6). We keep our faith in God no matter what is happening in our lives. And in manifesting our love for God, we concretize this love by our dealing with other people, especially our brethren. We are to “serve one another through love.” (Gal 5:13b). We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Gal 5:14).

God loves us so much that He calls us to follow His Son Jesus. Jesus has already shown the way. Now he calls us to be his followers, so that he can bring us along the right path, the only path that leads back to the Father and to the eternal joy of heaven.

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