Matthew 8:21-22 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
There is debate over the precise circumstances of the man who made the request of Jesus, but many scholars feel that his father wasn’t yet dead at the time. Rather, this was a request to stay with his family until his father died, and that obligation was out of the way. In that case, Jesus’ response is much more understandable. People put all sorts of things up as excuses not to follow Christ fully. A friend who was gifted and called as a pastor didn’t take that position until his children were mostly out of college. When he did follow through, his children’s response was, “Finally!” The very people he was using as an excuse had been wanting him to be more aggressive in his obedience. We are very sensitive to what other people think, often too much so, and we often misread how they are going to react. However, that is beside the point when it comes to following Jesus. He requires, and He deserves, our primary allegiance, our full devotion and obedience. It is hard to grasp that failure to be obedient to God because someone might disapprove is doing that person far more harm than violating their desires or even their commands. If we are strong in our obedience to Christ, the people we care about are far more likely to be influenced to check Him out for themselves, whatever it looks like at the moment. We have the situation right now of a man who experienced great protest and opposition from his parents when he became a Christian 20 years ago, but now they are actively seeking Christ and he is amazed and praising God. We have no guarantee that the people we care about will turn to Christ, but we can say definitely that our failure to follow Christ will not make them any more likely to follow Christ.
This is a constant issue for me as a pastor in Japan. Japanese society is extremely conscious of consensus, and doing things in opposition to the group is very difficult. I am not to put people down for that, but I am to continue to pray for and encourage them, on both sides of the salvation commitment. There are those who, in an effort to win those they rightly love and care about, have withdrawn from fellowship with the church. Not surprisingly, that has not produced the desired result. I need to encourage all in my care, but at the same time remember that it is only the Holy Spirit who can do the necessary work in their hearts. I am to be loving and gentle, but very, very firm and clear on the necessity of full commitment. Only then will we be the body of disciples that God desires us to be.
Father, thank You for all You are doing here. Thank You that the teaching on discipleship is being received, and that people are growing. Help us all keep our focus more and more on Christ and off of ourselves and our circumstances, so that we will allow You to do in and through us all that You desire, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!