God Loves to take Us on the Discipleship Journey

March 27, 2023

After starting a new diet, a woman altered her drive to work to avoid passing her favorite bakery. She accidentally drove by the bakery one morning and saw the picture window full of a host of chocolates, donuts, and cheesecakes. She decided it was not an accident, and decided to pray, “Lord, it’s up to You. If You want me to have any of those delicious goodies, create a parking place for me directly in front of the bakery.” Sure enough, on the eighth time around the block, there it was! God is so good!

Growing as disciples is one of the wonderful challenges of life. One of those challenges includes understanding some of the more difficult texts in the Bible. We must often be careful of taking a verse of scripture out of context and then attempt to apply it literally to our lives. This seems very apparent in the case of these startling words, words that call for a radical commitment. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters, yes even oneself, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

Within its Biblical context, this admonition by Jesus comes right after the parable of the Great Banquet, where Jesus describes the Kingdom of God. After the invited guests make their excuses, the master tells his servant, “Go out at once into the streets and bring in the poor, the lame, the crippled, the blind, and anyone else who wants to come, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:15-24). Anyone, and everyone, is welcome in God’s kingdom. We can’t help but be struck by the stark contrast of this parable and Jesus’ shocking words about hating the ones we normally love most, to be his disciple.

Taken together, the two texts complement one another. The parable declares that our faith is not exclusive, but God’s infinite love welcomes all people to the banquet table. For many, this is where faith must begin, where God often finds us. Once we were lost, but now we are found.

Once we claim Christ as our Lord and Savior, we naturally seek to grow in our faith. God also seeks to guide us toward stronger faith. I heard a pastor describe it beautifully this way, “God loves us too much to leave us where God finds us.” By God’s power we will find the strength to obey and imitate Jesus Christ more fully in our lives.

With that background we now look again at Jesus’ words about hating those we often love the most. If we decide to follow Jesus, we must not love anyone or anything greater than we love Christ. As we seek to remain faithful to Jesus’ call for discipleship, it may threaten some of our relationships with family. Jesus found this to be true with his family as they sought to stop him from preaching, as they wondered if he might be crazy, and knew that his life was in danger.

Such a faith will constantly mold us, challenging our relationships, and, I believe, make them healthier and more meaningful. Nowhere is the bond of love more important than in marriage. When Jesus says, “You must hate your spouse to be my disciple,” I think he is saying in order for a marriage to be the most loving and most mutually satisfying, we will give our devotion first to Jesus Christ, and then to our spouse.

My wife and I have tried to integrate our faith fully into our marriage. We have done this by going to church as a family, praying together at meals and other times, and working together to teach our children and grandchildren the faith. We have especially grown together through long talks with one another about what we believe. When was the last time you and your spouse talked about your faith together? Do you know what your spouse believes about God, and how that affects the way he or she lives?

I think this is true for all the activities of our lives. If our first commitment in life is to Jesus Christ, it will change who we are, in a positive way, in all aspects, and make us stronger when life throws challenges at us.

Our journey to become serious disciples is not a journey we walk alone. Remember, God loves us too much to leave us where He finds us. May God give us the strength to discipline our lives to become serious disciples of Christ. (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see, www.lagrangepres.org).