Friday, August 27, 2010

Disturbing the Comfortable?

The first thing I got caught on in these texts is the idea of hating one’s family. Various commentaries* seemed to consent that the word “hate” in this passage is either a comparison to the love for Jesus, i.e. that we love Jesus to the degree that our feelings for others are hatred by comparison, or an expression understood to mean detachment from those things. Essentially, following Jesus means separating ourselves from the opinions and expectations of others—especially those who do have so much influence over us—and taking up the life we are called to live.

Giving up our concern over opinions and favor of our family and friends can be difficult. Stoffregen** notes that this passage counters the more common giving up of vices in response to faith by calling would-be followers to renounce not the worst, but the best things in their lives.
Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship had some helpful insights regarding this concept:

“Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means
forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the
Christian conception of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be
of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The Church which holds the
correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part in that grace.
In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is
required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin…justification of
sin without justification of the sinner.” (45-46)

“To deny oneself is to be aware
only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before and no more
the road which is too hard for us…only when we have become completely oblivious
of self are we ready to bear the cross for his sake. If in the end we know only
him, if we have ceased to notice the pain of our own cross, we are indeed
looking only unto him…The cross is laid on every Christian. The first
Christ-suffering which every[one] must experience is the call to abandon the
attachments of this world.” (97-99)

Given this angle, I can’t seem to ignore the complimentary themes in Malachi and Philemon, who call their hearers to concretely live out their faith in ways that may not necessarily be easy.

This brings additional themes to mind:

  • Salvation/discipleship—We follow because we are saved; we are not saved because we follow.
  • Stewardship of gifts and resources—We must think about how we use what we have, including ourselves.
  • Law/gospel—We cannot really do this for ourselves or on our own.

I'm not sure yet if I'll try to go with just one theme/reading, or attempt to incorporate a few of the ideas I've come across as sub-themes while focusing on one main thought.

Feedback appreciated on this one!

*Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV). Anchor Bible. Doubleday.

Tiede, David. Luke. Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament. Augsburg.

**Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes. Crossmarks.


  1. Boy, that passage from Bonhoeffer makes me feel like I should scrap my sermon for preaching cheap grace. I definitely appreciate your "because/therefore" emphasis instead of "if/then".

    I'm excited to see what you do with the text!

  2. Jennie - I'm pretty sure I've never heard you come close to preaching cheap grace, and I don't think you would here, either... especially since you're focusing on stewardship. I think it's impossible to put cheap grace and stewardship into the same message.

    I'll be interested to see how our sermons differ, since we're focusing on separate theological points. Should be fun :)