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… In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14. 26 & 33)
The words, not of an extremist Islamic preacher, but of Jesus.
The man was a megalomaniac. Almost everyone, with the exception of a few gullible fishermen, thought so (Mark 3.20-21). Even his own family was convinced he was mad. He claimed that all the spiritual leaders who’d come before him were thieves and robbers (John 10.8) and believed – demanded – that everyone should give their lives over to him. And, boy, did he turn unpleasant when they didn’t! (Matthew 11.20-22 etc) Imagine what we’d make today of a fanatic who went around making the same sort of claims. It puts Jesus’ delusions of grandeur in perspective, doesn’t it.
Christians will tell you, though, that Jesus had such a high opinion of himself because, of course, he was divine; he was, and is, God’s only son – God himself, in fact – so he was fully entitled to say the nutty things he said about himself.
But there are a couple of problems with this conclusion:
1. Little of what he promised came to be, from his predictions of his own return heralding the end of the world (Matthew 16.28) to his guarantees his followers would be able to do all manner of wondrous things (Mark 11.24 etc). In other words, there’s just no evidence to support Jesus’ ludicrous assertions about himself. The end of the world, marked by his return in power and glory, didn’t happen when he promised it would (or, indeed, at all); his followers didn’t and still don’t do the incredible things he said they would. In fact, the early church, despite the rosy story made up for it in Acts, spent its time judging and squabbling (Romans14, etc), much like the church today. Little wonder that Jesus’ friends and biographers had to invent the resurrection story, to replace all the stuff he said would happen that didn’t.
2. Christians aren’t prepared to be as radical as Jesus demands; by and large they don’t disown their parents and offspring; they don’t hate their own lives (only other people’s ‘lifestyles’) and they don’t give up their possessions when they become disciples. They’re right not to, of course, otherwise they’d be giving into the whims of a madman, but all the same they want their cake and eat it: to adopt this particular extremist as their saviour while ignoring everything he demands that they do. So they compromise; not prepared to despise their families, and certainly not wanting to give up everything, they claim him as their God while hanging on to all they hold dear. I don’t blame them, but Jesus certainly wouldn’t approve of the compromise. He says so in the passages quoted at the top of this post and in numerous other places in the Bible.
So, Christians, why do you call him ‘Lord, lord’, when you won’t do what he tells you? (Luke 6.46)