Saturday, February 03, 2007

"But, first . . ."

In the time of Jesus, many Jewish teachers roamed Galilee and Judea. In outdoor settings and synagogues, they told parables, taught the Law of Moses, and gave extra “rules” on how-to live out that law.

As they traveled, they took note of potential disciples, observing those who wanted to further learn and might later qualify as teachers.

But among the itinerant rabbis, Jesus was supreme because he alone was the Son of God. Jesus watched for sincere followers, who would trust God to take care of them while they engaged in enlightening others about God.

In one setting (Luke 9:57-62), three different people heard the call to follow Christ. If they accepted, they would literally traipse along, follow him around, and experience his training-on-the-go. However, each gave an excuse. They had something back at home that first needed attention.

When called to follow Jesus, the third said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”

Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (61-62).

Undoubtedly, Jesus valued devotedness to family and he didn’t imply never contacting family again. His response emphasized in farmer-terms that a good start with a plow involved follow-up planting and a harvest. He wanted visionaries who could see the big picture, not those who lived by whims.

Matthew Henry, born in 1662, wrote about this scene where Jesus called disciples, “They that take up a profession in a ‘pang’ will throw it off again in a ‘fret’.

In my own life, I’ve experienced false starts and failures. “But, first” is often thought or spoken. I’ll start eating better tomorrow, but, first let me eat this fudge-striped cookie. I’ll phone my sick neighbor, but, first let me mow my lawn. I’ll ask forgiveness for my cross words, but, first let me pout and nurse this grudge a bit longer.

“Love finds a way, indifference makes excuses.” Ouch. I’m afraid it’s true, at least in my own life, that my excuses are often anchored to that awful cement block of indifference. One can drown in excuses.

Jesus has promised we will not plow alone. He is beside his farmers in the furrows because he is the “author and finisher” of faith.

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