Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Following Closely

Mt 16:24-26...Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

I hate freeway driving. For one thing I come from a small town with about one stop light. I remember when Burger King came to town and McDonalds never even was in the town until I left after college. So when I drive on the freeway, it is just a stressful place for me.

It's so unsavory for me to drive in traffic, that I have actually arranged my work day so that I start early and I end early so that I can miss most of the traffic. So you will find me going to work at 2:30 AM and coming home around 2:00 PM. That is perfect for me...really.

One of the things I hate the most is following too closely to the car in front of me. I love it when there is a lot of distance between me and the car in front. Why? Because I am assuming the other guy is an idiot. And my assumption is not wasted. I see so many accidents in good and bad weather that are caused by people not paying attention and following just too closely to the car in front of them. Many people lose their life in that way. So in general, it is not too good a practice to follow idiots too closely.

In this very familiar passage of Scripture, we see Jesus saying in essence..."Follow me closely." In general practice, as I just explained, that would not be a good thing to do. But in this case, I assure you, it is not only the right thing to do...for the Christian, it is the ONLY thing to do!

The thing that makes this an essential thing to do is that Jesus is no idiot. While it is true that you should never follow idiots too closely (if possible, don't follow at all), in this case Jesus tells us in paradoxical terms that if we wish to save our life, we must actually lose it for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. While Christians generally see this as a good thing to do, I am afraid the world will see you as an idiot if you do this. Don't expect people to encourage you too much in losing your life for Jesus' sake. They simply will not understand.

What makes this such an essential task for the Christian; Picking up our cross, following him and losing our life? Our soul. Jesus, in other parts of the Scripture states in no uncertain terms, this is the most prized and precious thing we have as human beings. Don't waste it. Don't squander it and certainly don't lose it...nothing...nothing is worth more than that! But here is the rub. We gain life by losing it. We keep our soul safe by giving it away...giving it not to the idiots in traffic on the freeway...not to our bankers...not even to the people we care most about on this earth. We keep our soul safe by giving it to Jesus...lock, stock and barrel. We need to keep our soul safe by following Jesus closely....very, very closely! Remember the words of Jim Elliot...

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Blessings All!

--El