Monday, January 16, 2012

A Mercenary For Christ

Drinking coffee and reading the Gospel of Luke would be therapeutic this morning, I thought. And then I came across this passage: (Luke 14)

"25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."

Sure, I've heard this before and thought 'Yes, yes, I need to remember the sacrifice required of disciples' - as I go on about my work of the day. It's not so much that I counted the cost of the kingdom before I entered; I saw the cost of NOT getting into the kingdom, and it scared the hell (literally) out of me, and I came to Him trembling. Rather like Peter - "Lord, where else shall we go to hear the word of truth?"

Mercenaries are paid soldiers - those who see the benefit of becoming paid assassins. They have no loyalty to any particular country or group, and would cheerfully pack a bag of weapons for whichever group pays them the most. Real soldiers, who spend their lives in defense of their people, their homes and their principles, in order to build something great, despise mercenaries to the bottom of their soul. It's rather like seeing a prostitute with regular customers, claim to be a 'wife'. Any real wife who'd made a real commitment would want to throw up, hearing that kind of nonsense. (For a modern-day example, see Steven Seagal's contempt in Under Siege for the kid who joins the Navy 'on the college program'.)

Sometimes, it hits me that I'm acting like a mercenary for Christ. Unlike a real soldier, I grouse at doing exercises that will prepare me for real battle. Unlike a real soldier, I complain that the rewards aren't big enough, and don't believe my commander(s) when it's said that our rewards in Heaven will be great. I want rewards NOW. I want to be paid now. If Christ really did require me to leave lands and family for Him, simply so that He might be honored, He'd hear about it from me. I'd be like the Persistent Widow, only not in a just cause - solely for my own benefit. Preparing for the Sabbath often finds me wondering "why should I? What's in it for me? Do I have to serve....again?! Didn't You say that Your burden would be light?!"

My sister Karen gave me a plaid pillow to hug when I have these momentary feelings. Taken from Calvin & Hobbes, the script reads - "Haven't I suffered enough?! Where will it all end?" She didn't mean for me to do the Martyr Walk through life, only to hug it (or throw it) when the mood is upon me, and go on about my life after laughing at my own dramatic nature.

DJ calls it "the one-eyed Me Monster". Like the Cyclops, it's ugly and has only a single focus: Self. Yes, intellectually, every Christian knows that one ought to be about Kingdom Business, serve others more than you do yourself, and sacrifice as He did. Quite often, we're made to give up small comforts rather than great things. Like Naaman (II Kings 5), it seems harder to give up pride and dip into a silly river for seven silly turns because a silly prophet told us, rather than be asked to do "some great thing" in order that our spiritual leprosy can be healed. That way, we could say, "Sure, the leprosy went away, but guess what I had to do for it to disappear!" We could be proud of our own contribution then.

So where does that passage in Luke lead? Should I hop in the Red Roadrunner, wave a cheery goodbye to family and friends, and tell them "I'm off to Africa to serve Jesus"? (Should I also bring that worthy continent my unwanted leftovers?) If every one of us would "forsake all that he has", who on earth would be left to build churches, extend hospitality, have bread to break with others, or send aid to our overseas workers?

The previous "Parable of the Great Supper" points out a common human flaw: excuses. The new oxen, the new wife, the new land is taking up all the thoughts and energies of those invited to the Great Supper. 'Put those aside', Jesus says daily, 'and look at Me. All these things WILL be added unto you. I gave them in the first place.'

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