The First Place

‘Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple’ (Luke 14:27)

Each of us is simultaneously enmeshed in any number of group identities. We belong to families, we’re citizens of a country, and we participate in political organizations. We’re cogs in the wheels of industry, and we’re affiliated with religious institutions. The problem is that each of our various affiliations tends to demand our total commitment as human beings.

Jesus says in today’s gospel, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” He continues: “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). It seems for all the world to be yet another argument that the church must be our primary commitment. It’s precisely the kind of thing one expects to hear during the Episcopal stewardship season. In fact, though, it isn’t any such thing.

Like us, Jesus has innumerable affiliations in his earthly life. He’s a family member, he belongs (according to some) to a political party, and he certainly lives with in a nation state. He practices a trade along with co-workers, and he identifies with a religious institution. Yet nowhere in the gospels does the Lord even hint at claiming that any of these things deserves our ultimate commitment.

Our primary loyalty, he says, must be to God and to his righteousness.

“If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today,” we read in Deuteronomy, “by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then … the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess” (30: 16). True virtue lies in “loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him” (30:20).

Jesus never demands that we put one or another of our many affiliations into first place in order to be able to serve him. Instead he requires us to put holiness and righteousness into all of our group identities. Unless and until we do that, he promises, “none of you can become my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

Look It Up

How might our Lord’s admonition in Luke 9:62 inform our everyday interactions?

Think About It

In what ways do we show forth our Christian faith in our everyday lives?


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