Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Promise We Ignore

"Then Jesus told his disciples 'If any man would come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.'" - Matthew 16: 24-25

How wonderfully focused I am on myself.

My world, too often, is bounded by me: my importance, my needs, all eyes on me. The lives of others - to the extent that the impact me at all - are measured on the convenience or inconvenience to my own life.

I can argue that it is natural, that God wants us to see to ourselves (He does of course, doesn't He?), that if I can't take care of myself I can't take care of others.

And then I am confronted (as I always am) by the words of Christ.

Deny yourself. Take up your cross. Follow me. Or to put it colloquially: Say no to yourself. Die to yourself. Follow in my footsteps.

That's where most people stop - myself as well. "Oh, the sacrifice" we moan. "Oh, the things we are surrendering. Say no to ourselves - what, say no to coffee? To a new book? Surrender my cherished goals - after all, if I don't do it in my life, no one will. And follow Christ - why, I attend church regularly, give, and even volunteer occasionally. That's more that most do!"

We stop - as I was going to initially stop - without the second part of the statement.

"Whoever would save his life will lose it" - not might, not probably, but will. Everything I do in the flesh to make my life better, to self-actualize, to be more fully human - if not done in Christ, will matter not at all.

"But whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" - not maybe, not possibly, but will find it. All the "sacrifices" we make of ourselves in the end will yield a far more rich treasure than anything we would realize on earth.

Do we accept this as Christians? Do we internalize it - not in the trivial matters of coffee and books, but in the serious matters of life and direction and building the kingdom of God? Are we so sacrificed on our small sacrifices we forget the huge sacrifice of Christ? Even sadder, do we fail to believe the promise of Christ himself that in dying to self, we will find our lives?

Is the fact that we often feel so powerless as 21st Century Western Christians due to the fact that we have never - really - denied ourselves and lost our lives?

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