If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself.
But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.
–Matthew 10:39, The Message
The gospel lesson for the sixth Sunday after Pentecost is a challenging one. Jesus tells his disciples that’s it’s not easy to follow him, especially by the world’s standards. Jesus did not come to make life warm and fuzzy nor clear and cozy. The reason God took on human form was to save the world (John 3:17), and we as followers of Christ are called to take an active part this activity. Yes, of course this text has eschatological overtones, but it seems to me there are also some marching orders for the here and now included.
Discipleship quite often puts us squarely at odds with the way the world works, with the structures of society and the systems of the status quo. Contemporary culture puts great emphasis on “finding oneself,” on self-actualization, and on “looking out for number one.” Jesus, however, says exactly the opposite. If we really want to find our purpose in life, if we truly want to understand who we are and for what purpose we have been created, Jesus says look to him. Not only will we find ourselves, we’ll find what really matters and what will last for all time.
Exactly what does this mean? First of all, we need to be intimately acquainted with Jesus’ teachings. We need to pray, read, and study scripture. It’s pretty hard to do the will of God if we’re not exactly sure what that involves. Making scripture an integral part of our life is countercultural in this post-Christian world, in a culture where the Bible has finally lost its number one sales position to Harry Potter.
Along with the spiritual disciplines of prayer and study, we are also called to see that our houses and affairs are in order. In a culture of spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow, this means learning to live at or beneath our means so that we have the freedom to give, give, and give some more to further God’s work in this world. It means learning to be content with enough and working to stem the tide of greedy consumption of our world’s resources. It means sharing our blessings generously with others, always living from the perspective of abundance rather than scarcity.
Looking to Jesus also involves going to society’s margins and being willing to spend time there getting to know the poor, the hungry, and the oppressed, all the people for whom Jesus clearly has a special place in his heart. It means speaking on behalf of those who have no voice and actively working for justice. We are called to speak not only with our mouths and our pens, but also with our consumer choices and lifestyles. Everything we do and say matters.
So remember that being a good and faithful steward and disciple means letting go of all that would distract us in this world, of anything that keeps us from seeing Jesus. Look to the cross, not in the mirror. Only by keeping our eyes, heart, and actions focused on the one who came to save us will we find both ourselves and eternal life with God.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Rev. Sharron Lucas, all rights reserved. Used by permission.