Entering the Next Dimension
Dear brothers & sisters,
It’s Thirsty Thursday, which means it’s time for the next installment of our Living Waters Series!
All this has brought us to a deeper understanding of the deeper calling that Jesus has made on our lives as Christians. We now have a clearer picture of what our love should look like in practice: a love that transcends our own (limited) ideas of selective gestures of kindness and reveals a shimmering summit towards which we are invited to ascend.
Jesus has encapsulated Judaism in the two Greatest Commandments, and then gives us a new commandment, to love each other as he loved us. These three commandments give us the Way of Love which Jesus walked before us and calls on us to follow.
But like any great journey with a worthwhile destination, we do not simply arrive all at once, as if by teleportation. The Way of Jesus has a starting point and many points of progress that guide us toward the summit of perfect love.
In other words, everything that Jesus taught shows us how we can practice and then hone the ideal of love for God, our neighbor, and each other in our own lives.
So, we have glimpsed our goal: a love that is so complete, many would claim that it is not of this world, but of the next dimension.
Now, our present mission is to learn how we can begin moving in the direction of perfect love, our shimmering summit. We must seek out the portal through which we can pass into the next dimension.
If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else–your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away.
So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.Luke 14:26-33
Jesus might as well have said: Do you have what it takes to be a Christian? To be my disciple is not an easy path, a lazy river. If you follow after me, I will take you places that will require all your resources. Where I am going, your family will not follow. Can you forsake them? Where I am going, you will at least need to die to yourself, and that’s only if you’re lucky enough to avoid the persecution that is my destiny. Can you forsake your life? Yes, to be a Christian requires all your resources. And in fact, your material resources are the very least of what you will need to be my disciple; they’ll just weigh you down. So before we even begin, forsake them. Give up everything you own. Sell it all, and give the proceeds to the poor. This is what I require of anyone who would be my disciple. Do you have what it takes? I assure you that in the end, it will all be worth it!
At this point, most of us stop in our tracks, a million different thoughts rushing through our heads: Did Jesus really mean that? Surely, he doesn’t mean that we should actually hate our families? Didn’t he also tell us to honor our parents? And what about this dying business? That must be an exaggeration. And our possessions? Jesus couldn’t mean that I must get rid everything I own. I could use these things for ministry! Jesus doesn’t actually want me to be homeless, does he?
Brothers and sisters, we have been here in this exact predicament: hearing what Jesus asks of us, yet being unsure if Jesus truly meant what he so clearly said. Doubt creeps in, and of course, we begin to rationalize our resistance to such a crazy idea as hating our families, literally facing death, and possibly most of all, actually forsaking everything. Perhaps we seek the counsel of others who are equally perplexed (or at least were at one point, but have now grown comfortable and apathetic in whatever rationalization has best suited themselves). Now that we see the cost of following Jesus, we try to find any way out of it, while still claiming the fantastic promises of abundant life, eternal life, and heavenly rewards that come with the Christian walk.
But if you are like us, brothers and sisters, you will not be able to convince yourself that Jesus is saying anything other than what he plainly said. You will not be able to talk yourself out of doing what Jesus says because you are a truth-seeker even when it hurts. All it takes is childlike faith to see through all our fears and attachment to worldly things, through to the other side: limitless freedom.
Jesus is asking us to embark on a radical journey. We already know the summit (perfect love), but in order to get there, we need to make a start. And that start, according to Jesus, is to renounce, give up, forsake everything from our families to our lives to our possessions.
This sounds scary, even impossible. But we tell you from experience, brothers and sisters, it only appears that way from a distance. Forsaking all is like the first time we went up on the high-dive at the local pool. Looking down, we are terrified at how far up we are, and we begin to second guess the whole thing. But anyone who has overcome this initial fear and took the plunge on faith knows how much fun it is to drop down, feeling the air rush up against your skin, then the satisfying splash, and finally the refreshment of cool water swirling all around! Sure, there are risks involved. Some people have broken bones jumping from the high dive, and others have even died. But that hasn’t stopped people from doing it anyway!
People are willing to risk their lives for a few seconds of fun jumping off the high-dive, but would they do it for an eternity with God? Jesus tells us we must forsake our lives, but chances are (in the Western world), the worst you’ll face is rejection from your family and ridicule from society. Is God worth it? We think so!
Yes, we really have gone through with forsaking all, brothers and sisters. We want you to know that we are not speaking about some off-the-wall theology, but about an actual experience with putting this straight-forward teaching into practice. This is real.
So being on this side of the high-dive, so to speak, we can also share a bit about why it seems like Jesus is making the first leg of the journey towards that incredible ideal of love for God, neighbor, and each other so ridiculously challenging! Well, he tells us, doesn’t he? Throughout the gospels, Jesus tells us that his Way isn’t easy and will require unwavering commitment, even at the expense of our own families and comforts (Matthew 7:13-14, Luke 9:57-62). If we do not “count the cost” (Luke 14:28), we will not be prepared to finish what we have set out to do: follow in the footsteps of our Lord all the way to the summit of complete love.
Right. Love. How is forsaking all about love? At the beginning of today’s exploration, we made the claim that everything Jesus taught shows us how we can practice and then hone the ideal of love for God, our neighbor, and each other. Trust us, we know that the last thing you’re probably feeling right now is love! If you’re anything like us, then the main emotions you’re feeling are fear, distress, confusion, maybe even anger. But not to worry: with God, we were able to work through these negative emotions, and now we hope to help you through it all, too!
Forsaking All Is about Loving God
In Part 1 of our Living Waters Series, we discovered that according to Jesus, our love for God will show itself in our willingness to carry out His will as best we can.
Here’s our first test! Are we willing to at least consider forsaking all for the sake of Christ?
Forsaking All Is about Loving Our Neighbor
In Part 2, we learned that loving our neighbor involves more on our part than a cheery smile and prayers for well-being. In many cases, it will mean sacrificing material wealth for the benefit of our neighbor.
Next week, we will devote our Living Waters post to a deeper discussion of the connections between forsaking all and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Forsaking All Is about Loving Each Other
In Part 3, we explored the implications of what Jesus’ love looks like when we show it to each other: selfless and even self-sacrificial!
We see one example of this kind of love in the early Church, where new believers forsook their possessions to be redistributed as there was need at the discretion of the apostles (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-35). By sharing everything in common, the first Christians were not only able to fulfill Jesus’ teaching about forsaking all, they were also able to practice the selfless love that Jesus modeled for us.
And not only can forsaking all show love for each other economically, but also socially. Jesus calls on us to forsake our blood families, and in so doing, we create strong ties between our family in Christ (Matthew 12:48-50).
It can be hard to see the love when you are first confronted with Jesus’ forsake all teaching, just like it is hard to see the fun when you’re standing on the high-dive for the first time! But those who, like us, have overcome fear with faith and followed through with this calling to forsake all can testify that it is not only an opportunity to grow in perfect love, but it is also the most liberating experience of our lifetimes.
So, brothers & sisters, all this has been yet another challenging dip into the Living Waters of Jesus’ teachings. If you’ve made it this far without giving up on seeking further, then congratulations! We look forward to communing with you next week.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus calls us to an abundant life (next-dimension-type stuff)! But in order to access this abundant life, we must first be willing to live his Way. Even if it seems totally crazy. Are you in? The water’s fine!
Love & Prayers,
Luke & Allie
Faith Worker Ministries