Monday, September 19, 2011

In Loving Memory

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple." - Luke 14:26

This was one of the passages Arden used in his sermon today and it stood out for me more than usual. I suppose it always stood out for me, but I had a tendency to downplay it because I believed I had a good handle on the meaning of it. It had always been taught that you love Jesus more than their family, then you are not giving yourself fully to God. That in comparison, your love of Jesus should be so much so that your love for your family would look like hatred. Kind of like a strong form of hyperbole.

Today, it stood out different for me. Perhaps it is my skittishness surrounding fundamentalism and the violence it has spawned and continues to spawn to this day in some cases that makes me uncomfortable with the statement. It's a statement like this that some would take as: "If I'm to hate my family, then I am justified in actually harming others who are not my family."

Although, I don't believe that's why it bothers me. Reality is, people have taken and will continue to take scripture and completely miss the point and go the wrong with it. We shouldn't just throw out words that Jesus says just because crazy, hateful people don't care about understanding and will abuse it.

No, I think the statement bothers me on a wider scope that you see in the breadth of Christianity and that is the idea of "loving Jesus". It was one of those ideas that has kind of sat there kind of awkwardly in the middle of the room of my theological construct that I didn't really know what to do with. It's a constant reminder to love Jesus because after all He loves you. It was confusing for two reasons.

One reason it was confusing was: In what way do I love Jesus? How is it different than loving a parent? How is it different than loving a woman? If I'm supposed to love Jesus more than anyone, then it needs a deeper dimension than the one that you share with the person closest to you? And how do you love someone who is not physically there?

The second reason it was confusing was how emotionally wrapped up people get when it comes to loving Jesus. Like they are "in love" with Jesus. It was weird to see girls fall in love with Jesus like he was the Beatles (or Justin Bieber for those who wish for a modern example) and would go wild for Him. I draw that comparison very specifically because there is almost a hysteria that surrounds all these individuals. In some regards, these girls wished that they would be able to marry these guys because they fit their ideal. I never really could relate to being so emotionally wrapped in Jesus, because I'm just not into dudes.

Obviously, that last paragraph is a touch facetious because that can't be the relationship we have with God unless you belong to a sex cult of some sort. That said, isn't it strange that many of our modern worship songs sound so much like romantic songs?

Arden's sermon was structured around the premise that our passions need to be geared toward God. It is the things that we are passionate about that fuel us to go forward and live. The question is: who are we striving for?

The easy comparison is looking to other things that motivate us. Maybe it is to impress a girl or our parents or maybe it's wealth or any number of things. The most admirable one in almost any culture is for the love of another and I think this is why it is easy for us to want to say that loving Jesus is what should motivate us.

Unfortunately, it leaves us to think that loving Jesus is similar to loving other people in our lives. Saying nice things about Him, declaring our unending devotion to Him, giving Him things. I'll be honest, I don't think that's what Jesus ever wanted.

Jesus seemed to be much more interested in obedience and us becoming more like Him than all these silly love gestures that may be nice, but ultimately mean nothing especially when the person isn't physically here with us. It seems like the word love seems to really confuse us and what we're supposed to be like and do.

When someone dies, I believe that we show love to them is to remember them. Here's the thing, we don't know what it really looks like to remember. Often it is painful and we just wish they were with us. I think we serve their memory better and truly show love to the person who has passed is learning from them. Learn from their triumphs and their character. Learn from their defeats and failures. We carry on the memory of them and honour them by letting them impact us. It is quite beautiful to me to think that the people who have left us actually have marked our lives by their lives. It shows your true relationship with them.

We have the advantage of having the life of Jesus passed down to us and we have the ability to learn from His character and triumphs and ultimately the path that guides us to true life. We carry on His memory and have His life mark ours. That seems to be more loving to Him than nice words.

Maybe that scripture from the start of this post is really getting at the fact there is something more important to life than our families and even our own life. It's not about loving Jesus in some strange romantic way, but rather becoming like Him. Really, if you are going to become like Him, we will face suffering because if you are going to love wastefully and fight injustice, then suffering will be in your horizon. It also means that we wish for those around us to become like Him, too.

Often, when our family hurts, we want to circumvent their problems because we love them and don't want them hurt. Our kid is picked on at school, so we talk to their principal or we pull them out of school. Our sibling hurts and the answer is for us to go beat up someone. We want to bubble wrap those we love so they don't have to face the reality of life and ironically we make them less able to handle it. We actually prevent them from maturing. Truly, if we love them, we have to challenge them to become Christ-like themselves. They have to face the trials that will make them stronger people and be there for them and not live their life for them.

This makes it look like we hate them. But really we're calling them to their true life, too. That passage says nothing about loving Jesus. It talks about being His disciple.

So what fuels our passion? Is it the love of Jesus and that feel good warm fuzzy of having a divine boyfriend? Or is the life of discipleship that Jesus has desired for all? Perhaps the best way to love him is to actually honour His life and become like Him.

"Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be.
There is a design,
An alignment to cry,
At my heart you see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be"
- Title Track from the Mumford and Sons' album "Sigh No More"

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I think you're bringing up some good material worth unpacking. I think you're right that Jesus was most concerned with his disciples becoming like him.

To go a step further, I don't believe he was simply saying, "Be like me," which can seem like an overwhelmingly impossible task, but was actually offering a path to becoming like him.

I've found this contextualization to offer some really profound perspectives when his words and actions are examined in this light. Not the only way to see it but a helpful one, nonetheless:)

Keep up the good work and don't stop moving forward.