Counter-Cultural Christians

     Jesus reminds us today, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is unworthy of me and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is also unworthy of me.”  What a disturbing, challenging, counter-cultural gospel message!  Viewed from our 21st century vantage point, this gospel passage reflects a belief system foreign to many of us.  We tend to compare Scripture against our needs and our wants. Influenced by our first world existence, we often assume that we have a right to the goods of this world, including its comforts, conveniences and guarantees.  The very thought that our belief system might ask us to carefully review and adjust to what we feel entitled to, is counter-cultural for us.

     The early followers of Jesus certainly understood the price they were required to pay for their faith.  Peter, Andrew, James and John left their fishing livelihood, and Matthew left his tax collector status to follow Jesus.  Some left family members unburied, and others willingly shared their resources with the poor. Down through the centuries, many have given their lives to follow their God.  Jesus reminds us that “all you who have left houses, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, children and land for the sake of my name will be repaid a hundredfold.”  Following Jesus always demands sacrifice

     In Jesus’ world, family was the basis of a person’s identity.  Social and religious status was intimately tied to family including children who guaranteed families a secure future and the ability to influence future generations. However, if family relationships, as important as they were, prevented a person from following Jesus, that person could not be a disciple.  When Jesus demanded that followers love him over family, he was reminding them that all their hopes and dreams had to be tied to him and not to family goals or future desires.      

     How do we translate this gospel passage into a practical directive today?  Primarily, disciples have no choice when choosing to follow Jesus.  Placing themselves, even their very existence first is not an option.  They are required to speak and act against injustice no matter what the cost.  Non-action and non-involvement are just not part of their world-view when others are suffering.  Christian discipleship requires a radical commitment that supersedes all others.  Our gospel call is to realize that discipleship demands that we find the meaning of our lives in Jesus Christ, recognize what a gift it is to be loved by him and to be able to love him in return.  A day before Saint Oscar Romero was assassinated, he told his people, “If they kill me, I will arise again in the Salvadorian people!”

     As followers of Jesus, we cannot establish false gods in our lives.  Idol worship includes all the false gods that attract our attention and blur our vision of God’s love.  This is a challenging task especially for many of us who subscribe to and yearn for success.  Whatever gets in the way of our loving relationship with Jesus takes on the image of a false god.  We all engage in that on-going struggle to pull away from worldly attachments and free ourselves to respond to God’s call to a deeper commitment and deeper love.  That call has always been counter-cultural but is the required path for disciples of Jesus.

~ Deacon Wilson Shierk