Oh my! Hate father and mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters! Is this the same Jesus who says love everyone, even your enemy? Today’s reading from Romans tells us: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no evil to the neighbor, hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.” Then Luke’s gospel seems to contradict that. Could it be that this seemingly harsh message has a much deeper meaning?
Jesus is telling us that discipleship is a very serious undertaking. Jesus is demanding self-sacrifice in terms of time, energy, talent, attention and money. That makes discipleship a very expensive endeavor. The cost is very high.
We like to believe that we are faithful, but we don’t want that faith to impinge on our freedom to live in the world. Our commitment to our community of faith becomes one more activity to complete with all the demands of our busy lives instead of our primary focus. But Jesus is calling us to self-sacrifice and “taking up our cross.” That means putting Jesus first in order to accept his gift of “abundant life.”
This isn’t about salvation or earning God’s grace. Our salvation has already been procured by Jesus. This is about living into the discipleship that God’s grace makes possible. It is about the quality of the Christian life we actually live. Today’s psalm response makes the message complete: “Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.”
This is discipleship in action. This is putting another’s need before one’s own. This is what Jesus is asking of each of us.