Leave everything for God. “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram went” (Gen. 12:1-4).
The calling became a covenant: “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. … [Sarah] shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her” (Gen. 17:4, 16).
When Jesus called his disciples, they left everything. “As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea — for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:16-18). The pattern is repeated in the calling of James and John, though with more emotional weight because they “left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him” (Mark 1:20).
The call to leave everything has a certain heroic appeal. Rather than go along with inherited customs and values and a self that is created mainly by the surrounding culture, one ventures out upon a new life of discovery in Christ. Christianity’s establishment as the religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century gave rise to a great migration of men and women to the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia, where many lived as hermits.
Having left the world, they sought Christ in absolute and solitary devotion, repentance and purgation, simple trust and hope. They did not reject the world entirely. In some ways, they remained connected to nearby cities, willingly submitted to ecclesiastical authority, and shared community life through counsel and encouragement. Still, their witness was radical, a witness that has never departed from the life of the Church.
Of course, some souls were broken by excessive severity and, less seriously, a life of radical discipleship sometimes seemed foolish or funny. Celtic saints setting sail on the ocean in small wooden boats searching for a promised land sometimes met a watery death.
A young Teresa of Ávila, at only 7, tried to run off with her brother to the country of the Moors, hoping to be beheaded for Christ. Apprehended by their uncle, they returned home. Undeterred, the young radicals “decided to become hermits.”
“We used to build hermitages, as well as we could, in the orchard which we had at home. We would make heaps of small stones, but they at once fell down again, so we found no way of accomplishing our desires,” she wrote. Amid even strange and childish tales, a kernel of truth remains. The call of God in Christ is an exodus from this world.
Suppose we do not leave the world. Suppose our thoughts and feelings are mostly a reiteration of what we have seen or heard in our social media culture. Suppose we drift and are formed unknowingly into a mirror image of the culture we inhabit. Suppose our convictions are only reactions reinforced by constant stimuli. In such a world, we may love our parents and family and friends, but we do not have a self of depth and reality.
Jesus unmakes the false self and creates a new being. A new humanity sings a new song, lives a new life, loves rightly and properly.
Look It Up
“So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name” (BCP, p. 101).
Think About It
Leave the world and then embrace the world.