Wednesday, May 20, 2015

On Following Christ and Plowing

Puts a hand to the Plow
Original art from the Gutenberg Project

Luke 9: 57 - 62 NIV

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

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

There is a massive difference between reading something and reading something with the intention of teaching or explaining. I have read this many times before, but it wasn't until I started working on this post that I realized how harsh these responses sounded. After digging a little deeper, I think I understand.

This scripture has been on my list for the Wednesday Devotion ever since I made the decision to start this series. There is a lot here to cover.

At the time of this scripture Jesus is pretty much at the height of his earthly ministry. I figure there were lots of people who were following Him around, but there was a difference in following and being a follower. Where ever Jesus was exciting things happened. People were healed, demons were cast out of people, multitudes of people were fed by a child's sack lunch. Wherever Jesus was, was the place to be. But being a part of the inner circle, that was different.

The end of Jesus's earthly ministry was drawing near and before someone was accepted as a disciple, Jesus wanted them to understand the cost.

No Home

Jesus had a traveling ministry. He and his disciples slept under the stars as often if not more often than they slept in someone's home. Even then it was someone who invited them to stay. I believe these opportunities decreased a great deal after the four friends tore the roof off of a house to be able to get their paralysed friend before Him. Warning this man that they had no home was fair and honest.

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead

This one I found a little difficult to understand for a while. According to Jewish tradition, when a family member died, someone has to stay with the body. All of the immediate family are required by tradition to be mourners. This young man really should have been with his family. If this young man was willing to avoid his traditional responsibility to his family, how would he react in the face of persecution.

Let Me First Say Goodbye

This one I understood easily.  This man wanted to follow Jesus, but he wanted to tell his folks goodbye, that seems normal enough, but I believe that there is a lot more to it. Can you imagine what the scene would have been like around Jesus on a daily basis? To be counted among His true followers probably came with a level of notoriety. The religious leaders would hate you, but the common people would say "He is a follower of Jesus" and say it with a level of respect and possible awe. People can be easily swayed by emotion. I know some who have declared faith in Christ because their friends did so or because their parents wanted them to, or even because the preacher gave an emotional message that moved them. The decision to become a Christian is not one to be made lightly. Conviction should be the motivator not emotion. These two are easily confused. Conviction can come and go, but it is an insistent knowledge of being imperfect. It can be a regular remembrance of a specific event or a general sense of missing the mark. After all that is what sin is.

Sin is an archery term.  To sin is to miss the bulls-eye, while still hitting the target. Anything short of perfection is sin and sin is a word we do not like to use.

The Plowing Analogy

I love this analogy. It is a perfect word picture of a Christians life. If you have ever plowed a field with mules, horses, oxen, or a tractor even for that matter, this statement is easy to understand. When I first started learning to plow using draft animals, I was lucky enough to find an ol' timer to help me out. His first bit of advice what "Don't look at what you are doing. Find a landmark off in the distance, focus on that, drive toward that mark." When I followed that advice I had nice straight furrows. As soon as I looked at the plow cutting through the ground, my furrow would be a little off. A couple of times I looked back to admire my work. As soon as I did, I had a major curve in my furrow. 

An old photo of Abbie and myself taking a little break.
We as Christians are a lot like my plowing job. As long as we keep our eyes on Jesus we are able to stay straight. As soon as we take our eyes of Jesus and start looking at what we are doing problems begin. If we start looking back it is real easy to get sideways. 

There are always things in our past that can take our eyes off of Jesus. Many times we as people want to revel in our victories,  brag about our scars, cry over our heartaches, and complain over the ways we have been mistreated. This is true in so many ways and it is something that I still struggle with.

Looking back not only affects our relationship with God, it can also hinder our relationship with others. My wife is the most wonderful woman in the world. Don't believe me? Just ask me and I will tell you again. We have both been through some really bad relationships in the past. From time to time however we will both revert back to the reactions we had in our previous relationships, I more often than her. It is not fair to my wife for me to look at her through the lens created by someone else. When we both focus on Jesus and each other, in that order things work so much better.

I hope you are enjoying the Wednesday Devotions.

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