23 Jan 2014 by Adeline Lum CM-
25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-26)
This bible verse has been a controversial verse, questioning whether we should be filial to our parents. But what does this verse really mean? Sr Pr Lawrence Yap of Charis Christian Centre preached on the cost of being a disciple, based on Luke 14:25-26.
Setting our eyes on Jesus
He told a story of a dog, which sighted a white rabbit and started to passionately chase after it. Soon after, more and more dogs joined the chase. But after a while, the pack started to lose in numbers and eventually, only the first dog that sighted the rabbit was still pursuing it.
So, why do you think the other dogs gave up chasing the rabbit?
“That’s because only the first dog saw the rabbit. Hence, it did not give up the chase. The other dogs did not see the rabbit, but they only joined in the chase,” said Pr Lawrence.
In this story, the white rabbit resembles Jesus Christ. The first dog resembles a person who has seen and encountered Christ. The other dogs resemble believers who are following for the sake of following the crowd—going to church, paying their tithes, and doing community service—but they have not encountered Christ themselves.
“Have you seen Jesus lately or are you just going to church by following the crowd?” said Pr Lawrence.
Pr Lawrence shared how Jesus in Luke 14 turned to a large crowd of people and said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple (v 26).”
What a startling statement! Why would Jesus say something so unpopular when he had gained such a crowd? This is because like a pack of dogs that followed the first dog; some of them were following Christ because of the miracles he performed and the large crowd He drew. He said that to reveal their hearts—some of them were after the miracles, but not after Him.
“The irony of our Christian faith is that too many times, we are after the gift and not the giver. At that juncture when Jesus made that statement, it was the defining moment. He wants them to see not only His (giving) hand but His face as a Master and what He expects from us,” said Pr Lawrence.
Does that mean that Jesus expects us to hate our family?
No, but it is devoting ourselves to God, making Him as our top priority. And in that regard, you love your family less compared to God.
But why does Jesus say that our love for Him must deepen beyond our love for our family?
Jesus appeared to be a possessive and insecure God, wanting our undivided attention for Him. But the reason Jesus said this is He is the source of all love and only through Him, true love grows, shared Pr Lawrence.
We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)
“Without that kind of agape love, all kinds of other love is a superficial kind of love. Jesus is talking about loving Him, so that when we love Him, there’s a reciprocal action of love, and then we will have a genuine love for others,” said Pr Lawrence.
When Pr Lawrence first accepted Christ during his college days, one of the biggest hurdles he faced was the strict forewarning of his mother to not embrace Christianity. Having a son accepting Christ is akin to losing a son, because he would no longer offer respect in the form of joss sticks when his parents leave this world. But somehow, God gave Pr Lawrence the strength to invite Jesus into his heart.
“I believe, in the witness of the Holy Spirit, if it’s so good to gain eternal life, why not so that I can also share this eternal life with my parents? That would be the best gift, which is to lead my parents to eternal salvation,” said Pr Lawrence, whose parents both accepted Christ today!
He also shared about his friends in Bible school who were tested through the furnace of trials. One of them was mistaken by her mother to be demonically possessed from her obsession in following Christ. As a result, her mother locked her in a room for days and brought her to a popular medium of another faith to renounce the ‘demon’ in her. After the medium came out of a trance, the medium said to her mother, “Whatever spirit is in your daughter is stronger than the spirit in me.” Although the mother gave up on her, his friend continued loving the mother. Today, not only she became the senior pastor, her mother and whole family accepted Christ and they are serving the church as deacons and church leaders.
“Would you take up the challenge to love the Lord more than your family, knowing that God would never short-change your relationship with your family? Your devotion to the Lord would come in a time when you need to displease your parents. Do you believe that all works together for the good of those who love Him? The disruption in a relationship may happen momentarily but God would restore it, and that takes faith,” said Pr Lawrence.
What Luke 14:25-27 is NOT
Pr Lawrence shared that some believers misconstrued Luke 14:25-27 by entirely disassociating themselves with their family in the name of obeying God, leaving their homes to live with a community of believers, and/or cutting off provision to their aged-parents. These practices are not right because Jesus called us to love our parents, despite their reaction to us.
Another common incident, Pr Lawrence shared, is how believers would disengage themselves from the Chinese New Year family gathering by labeling it as a pagan festival. But Chinese New Year is the best opportunity to be the salt and light to your family!
“If you want to pick on each day, every day is a pagan day. Can you believe that God can sanctify everything because He has made this day? Why can’t you say some scriptures when you ‘lou sang’? Don’t live in bondage and legalism. If the Son has set you free, you shall be free (John 8:36)! Go out to them and show them that Jesus has liberated us. It is putting you in the correct limelight that would attract people to Jesus,” said Pr Lawrence.
What ‘Carrying their Cross’ means
27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)
What does carrying the cross meant? The secondary meaning of the cross is carrying a burden in our lives, such as a strained relationship, burdened job, and physical illness. But the primary meaning goes back to its cultural context, where Jesus carried the physical cross to Calvary. To the person of the first century, the cross meant death in the most painful and humiliating way. Hence, ‘death’ in this case could mean martyrdom or spiritually dying to self. Pr Lawrence explained about the latter.
“The self lies in us could be our stumbling block that prevents God from being the Lord of our lives such as selfish ambitions, wishes, and plans. And a word of caution especially for those of us who have climbed high, being successful in education and work, in the midst of these lofty things, there will be times we will cross the danger zone where we become our own masters, a constitutional monarch who’s running his own show, not wanting to listen to any advices. The very success can become the very stumbling block to falling,” said Pr Lawrence. Taking the cross, death to ourselves meant that God may increase and we decrease.
24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? (Luke 9:24-25)
In Luke 9, it is not losing our life but losing ourselves, so that the resurrected lives of Jesus Christ can take place. The cost of discipleship is high, bought by the costly blood of Jesus Christ. Yet, over the years, we have cheapened grace, making the cost of discipleship low.
“We have cheapened grace and cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting for costly grace. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.”
“In the year 2014, we face the enemy of cheap grace. We should value his grace to the highest degree!” said Pr Lawrence.
“A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing."
“We can do nothing to earn our salvation except to humbly come to Christ and accept His salvation. We need spiritual disciples, not spiritual tourist. You may be running, but are you like the dogs that run because you see a dog running, or have you seen the rabbit?” he said.
Are we a casual follower or a committed disciple? The cost of discipleship is high because the price of grace is high. And we would only realize the price of grace when we have encountered Jesus Christ in our lives.
References for pictures: