Summary: There is no greater cause than spreading the Gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ--it deserves our full commitment.
A CULTURE OF CONVENIENCE: Speed, convenience, and ease are all important words. Consumers look for these things. Producers of goods and materials pay attention to these things—and with good reason! The buyers they are hoping to attract are sometimes willing to settle for less in terms of quality and even value as long as the product can be delivered into their hands with a minimum of difficulty and delay. Where can you find such buyers and sellers? In the mirror! We are these people.
People used to have to do things like getting their water from an outside pump, going to the outhouse on a cold winter night, keeping their lamps filled to be able to see at night, shoveling coal or chopping wood to keep their furnace going, keeping their transportation fed, watered, and groomed, and writing letters to communicate with people who were not within walking distance. Today we simply turn a knob, flip a switch, adjust a control, press a button, or turn a key, and all of these things are done for us instantly and effortlessly. The classic American meal used to be something like roast beef and mashed potatoes. Today it’s a Big Mac and fries! Kitchens used to be filled with the lingering smell of baking bread. Today all we have is the sound of microwaves beeping!
Can you blame us? We live in a very complicated and busy world. Anything that can simplify our lives or give us more free time is a welcome change. However, we dare not let ourselves and our lives be defined by this quest for convenience. We know that the easiest is not always the best, and that the path of least resistance is often a dead-end road. Some things are still worth doing the hard way. There still are causes and goals that are worthy of an all-out effort on our part, and dreams that deserve our full devotion in order to achieve.
What about our relationship to God and our life of faith? We know that God is always there for us—but are we always living for him? So many times, what we give to God in terms of our attention, time, and effort are the leftovers. He wants to be the author of the story of our lives, but instead we’ve buried him somewhere deep in the footnotes. When God becomes nothing more than a religious afterthought and the hard times come, we sometimes wonder why he doesn’t seem to be around!
This isn’t just a modern problem, though. It has always been there since the fall, deeply embedded in our sinful nature. One brother brings God “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” The other settles simply for offering God “some of the fruits of the soil.” With one God was pleased, and with the other he wasn’t. What Cain didn’t understand was that God wasn’t interested in the mere outward appearance of honoring him. He was looking at Cain’s heart, and Cain’s heart was what God found lacking. God did not receive such a half-hearted offering favorably, and the sinfulness of Cain’s heart was further revealed by his boiling resentment against Abel, whose offering God had graciously welcomed.
ALL OR NOTHING: “‘Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘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. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.’” (Luke 14:25-27)
If you are one of those people who were brought up to never use the word, “hate”, you might have a difficult time with this passage. I know I love my mom, dad, wife, kids, brother and sister very much! Furthermore, we know that Jesus himself demonstrated love and obedience to his parents—the time that Jesus, while nailed to the cross, entrusted his mother into the care of the disciple John is one of the most touching scenes in the entire Bible. In fact, we find that God actually commands us to love others, including our families. We are correctly taught that the sixth commandment includes the idea that a husband and wife should “love and honor one another.” In the fourth commandment, we learn that God wants us to honor, serve, obey, love and cherish our parents and others in authority.
What does Jesus mean? Whatever his disciples may have understood at the time Jesus uttered these words, our understanding of them (and theirs at the time they were written) is permanently influenced by what he has done for us. He loves us so much that he was the first to truly carry his cross when he suffered and died for our sins. That is how we know what it means to “carry the cross”!