“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.’” Luke 14:25-27, 33
Jesus has never been interested in what’s popular. He doesn’t want people following Him because it’s convenient or cool or because He performs miracles. He knows that if someone follows Him as a result of a fad or a cultural norm, their heart isn’t really undergoing any sort of change. Their faith isn’t real.
Jesus is out to transform our lives. He purposes to turn everything upside down, to right our perspectives and fix our eyes on His glory. Choosing Him means we put Him before everything else in our lives. Our love for Him, our commitment to Him, must be greater than that for ourselves, our family, our friends, our belongings, our desires, the path of our life that we hope for. Our love for anything else should pale greatly in comparison to our love for our God.
In these statements, Jesus is seeking to cut down attempts to justify our leaving Him for any reason. Our human nature tends to search for ways to accomplish what we want, to look for loopholes and create excuses to back out of a difficult commitment or a rule that appears to work against our desired outcome. Knowing this, our Lord wants to emphasize how much more we are to love Him. To set the standard to love Him with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our strength…not just some of it.
So why does He go to these lengths? Why does it really matter? Why can’t God be satisfied with a love that is less, accepting those who come to Him regardless of their motivation or the extent of their commitment? Why would He want to choose a select few rather than the multitudes who would come to Him if He just made things easier?
It’s because of His great love for us. And because of His great worth, which abundantly exceeds the worth of anything or anyone else. Our God demands everything of us so that we will know the fullness of joy that is found in His presence, worshiping the One who is infinitely glorious and worthy of all praise. The Son of God died for us. He died. An agonizing, painful death. He bore the wrath of God for our sake. For the first time in eternity, He experienced separation from the Father—so that we would never have to be separated from Him again.
The God of all the universe went to great lengths to provide us a way of salvation. He goes to great lengths to open our eyes to His grace and His truth, to awaken our souls and purify our hearts. This grace is costly. We cannot treat it lightly or view it as a cheap commodity, to be taken hold of when it suits us and forgotten when it’s inconvenient. What a grave insult it is to God Most High when we choose to cast aside His declarations of love and His wise counsel so that we can fix our eyes and our hearts on that which will deceive us, enslave us, and create a barrier between us and the One who offers abundant life.
Jesus wants all of us because He knows how deceitful our heart can be and how damaging that is for us. He knows that only He will satisfy, that only He will be faithful and true forever. Everyone else will let us down. Everything else will fail. Every other foundation we may choose for our life will be shaken, and we will be left in despair as we try to pick up the pieces and put them back together.
If God is our foundation, if He is at the root of every perspective, every decision, and love for Him is the basis for our actions and choices, everything else will fall into the right place. Our love for our family, our friends—for all whom we encounter—will be greater, because at the core of it all is the One whose love is perfect and everlasting. And regardless of what life throws at us, no matter how circumstances change and others reject or betray us, we stand firm and are not destroyed. We keep our eyes on the glorious One who holds all things in His hands. The One who works all things for the good of those who love Him.
Jesus isn’t interested in being a fad. He wants to be our everything. He wants our faith to be real, so that when the hits keep coming and the pain threatens to overwhelm, we will take refuge in His wings and experience how great is His faithfulness, how sustaining is His grace, and how mighty is His strength. He wants us to know what it is to be upheld by His steadfast love that will never fail. If we view His sacrifice lightly and abandon Him when it’s inconvenient, we won’t know His unsearchable greatness and magnificent glory. We’ll keep searching for something to fill the void—the one only He can fill, and which He will fill to overflowing.