Daily Reflection
November 3rd, 1999
Ken Reed-Bouley
Creighton Center for Service and Justice
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Romans 13:8-10 
Psalm 112:1-2, 4-5, 9 
Luke 14:25-33 

The commandments . . . are all summed up in this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Romans 13:9

If anyone comes to me without turning his back on [“hating” in some translations] his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, indeed his very self, he cannot be my follower. – Luke 14:26

How can these two seemingly contradictory statements be part of the same day’s readings?  “Hating your family and yourself” hardly sounds like the “good news” for which the Gospel is named.  But juxtaposed with the more familiar and palatable commandment to love, we have faith that patience and reflection might reveal wisdom in the troubling statement.

Several factors help us to understand Jesus’ harsh statements.  First, the assertion that we must hate or turn our backs on those relationships that are closest to us (parents, spouses, children, self) exaggerates the contrast.  In other words, how can I possibly hate those whom I love the most?  Second, early disciples were required to be willing to leave home and family in order to travel with this itinerant group.  So the command to be willing to leave even your closest relationships served a very practical function for early Christians.  Furthermore, some pagan spouses were divorcing their believing spouses.  And some Christians were being persecuted and killed for their beliefs.  Discipleship carried difficult conditions and a potentially high cost indeed!

On the one hand Jesus made it all so simple:  “love your neighbor as yourself.”  On the other hand, Jesus tells us that this seemingly simple statement might not be quite as easy as it sounds.  There are conditions and costs to being Jesus’ disciples.  We need to make a total commitment to Jesus and the Kingdom he preaches.  We need to be committed to Jesus above all else, even our closest relationships.  We need to be prepared to commit ourselves to Jesus and his work above all else.

So do we jump right in to become disciples?  I think Jesus cautions us against such an approach.  By telling us the stories of the ruined builder and the conquered king, Jesus emphasizes that we must carefully consider what we are getting into and how we will sustain our commitment before we get involved.  Then, once we begin the journey of discipleship, we need to be willing to sacrifice everything if need be.

I believe my explanation of these passages is fair, but what does this mean for me today?  After all, I find being Christian in North America in this time and place rather easy, even advantageous.  Where’s the cost of being Christian for me?  I do not foresee myself having to reject my family in order to be a committed disciple of Jesus.  But I do know that there are many things in my life that “get in the way” of total commitment to Jesus and building his Kingdom.  The money and possessions that he warns us about over and over again certainly get in the way.  Not taking enough time to pray and just be with God depletes my spiritual resources.  Watching too much television causes my body, brain and spirit to grow flabby.  Not doing anything to combat—and sometimes not caring enough even to inform myself about--injustices in my community and world selfishly serves my often narrow existence.  For now I believe the cost for me to be a disciple is to continuously seek to live out this “greatest commandment” (Mk 12:28-34) of loving God and loving my neighbor as myself.  I know my commitment is not yet complete, but I hope I am on the right path.. 

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