Luke 14:25-35 “La Guerilla”
There is the old story of a man coming up to the pastor of his church to ask him if he would allow a book in the church library that contained such things as adultery, prostitution, usury, treachery, and innumerable portrayals of open warfare. The pastor is taken aback and assures his parishioner that no such book should be found in the church library. The man then clarifies to the pastor that he was speaking about the Bible itself.
We have to be honest and not sugarcoat what the Bible reports to us. The story of the bible is about God’s intervention in humanity. We all know that humans are messy and warlike. Ever since the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, we have remained “fallen” even though we were created by God in God’s Image. That is in fact the very reason that we struggle to be good Christians. We struggle against our own human nature to fulfill the hope of being with God in the heavenly kingdom.
This is the war within us. My sermon title is a Spanish word that means the “little war.” It has been used mostly to describe asymmetrical jungle warfare. You have heard it said that “It is a jungle out there!” Well, it is a jungle inside our hearts too! The Apostle Paul describes this in Romans 7:21-25, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Following Jesus, wanting to be his disciple or student in this world, will be like starting a whole new life. The old life is left behind, and we are reborn to Jesus. Galatians 2:19-20, “For through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. . . “
Do you remember seeing those old cartoons of Bugs Bunny when he is trying to decide what to do to Elmer Fudd. Two little Bugs Bunnies show up on either shoulder and try to cajole the rabbit. One voice says to do the worst; the other is the good voice of leniency and self-composure. The angelic and the demonic struggle inside of us. Christ is inside of us, struggling with the regular us.
What happens though when La Guerilla inside of our minds does not stay there but starts leaking out into the lives of others around us? That is when things can get very rough for a first-time Christian. When Luke is writing this to the early church, the persecutions against Christians have already started. Yet, besides the official Roman punishments for being Christian were the more subtle and subversive acts being carried out in the general population.
For instance we know that the reason that donations were being collected for the church in Jerusalem was that in Luke’s time already those who were followers of the Way of Christ were being denied work, housing, and even the ability to purchase food. Christians were in all ways an oppressed minority early on. Being thrown to the lions in the Coliseum was just the final act of aggression against the early Christians.
Jesus says that if you are going to follow, you may hate your mother and father, children, and/or brothers and sisters. What is missing from this explanation is the simple notion that in those days, when one became a Christian he or she often found it necessary to forsake blood relatives. Christians were routinely thrown out of synagogues as apostates to the Jewish Faith. In essence they were disowned of the community and extended family life that was the backbone of society then.
This is still going on in many parts of the world. When we were missionaries in Thailand, we learned that those who became Christians were told that they could no longer be Thai. They were giving up their national identity. You see, to be Thai means that you are subject to the Thai King, who is the head of the Buddhist faith. If you ask a Thai Christian the question “Who is your King?” that might get them kicked out of their family. If they say Jesus, that means they are disloyal to the Thai nation. Thai Christians have to make that huge sacrifice.
That is the way it is China and in every Muslim country around the world. Being a disciple of Jesus is truly as if you are willing to give up your entire life as you know it to be. Your family may never talk to you again. In Muslim countries the family may put out a “fatwa” or death sentence against you.
Jesus tells those he is leading (he stops and turns to those who are following him) to estimate the cost of this discipleship and be ready in your hearts to pay that incredible sum in order to follow. Jesus uses the analogy of a man who is going to build a tower but has not estimated its total cost. Yes, this sounds like the Honolulu rail system debacle. Everybody knew up front that it was going to cost a lot more than what was being estimated.
We just finished a building project here at this church. What if we had actually believed the contractor’s original bid amount? We would still today have an unfinished building that would be unusable! Jesus is not going to accept half-finished faith. What good is to say, “When I die I estimate I will make it maybe half way to heaven!”? You say something like that, and the rest of the world will look at you with scorn and ridicule.
So, Jesus is walking ahead of this crowd of hundreds and turns to ask that critical question: “Are you really going to follow me all the way?” Or, are you going to stop when things get rough? How many of those who were following Christ on that day were in the crowd later yelling for Pilate to crucify him? How many of the hundreds that were there showed up at the Cross of crucifixion? How many would end up denying him in the days that followed?
The truth of this matter is that it is certainly easier NOT to be Christian in this world today. Let us be honest! Being a Christian is the hardest thing you will ever do in your life. It takes great courage.
Jesus goes on in this passage to tell about a king with an army of 10,000 waging war against another king with an army of 20,000. Are we ready for that kind of a polemic? What do these numbers remind us of? If you were a Jew in that day, I think you would have remembered some of the battles that King David fought and won in the Old Testament. Go reread 1 & 2 Samuel so that you may see once more how it was that David not only killed the giant Goliath when David was just a lad but how he again and again with his small band of six hundred loyal fighters took on thousands of Philistine fighters. One thing to note in this: David always “inquired of the Lord” before he set out to battle. 1 Samuel 30:8, “David inquired of the Lord. . . .” The Lord would answer. God would give the battle over to David.
I want to assure you this morning that the battle, the spiritual struggle that we find ourselves in, has already been decided. Jesus has already been through death and rose again. Whatever victory evil thought it won on the Cross was turned around on the glorious Day of Resurrection.
Jesus in our scripture for today in Luke (verse 32) makes it clear to those who would follow him. If you are not up to this fight, go “ask for terms of peace.” That is another way of saying you might as well surrender yourself to the world already. Just give yourself and everything you are and have over to this world. And, you might well live a long life on this planet. In the end, ashes to ashes and dust to dust, everything you are and all that you have will be buried with you.
A couple weeks ago I got one of those pesky ransom ware e-mails on my computer. I did not open it by the way. Never do that! The subject line read “Save your life.” At first I thought it was maybe something religious from another church. Without opening it, I was able to get to the source code to see that it was from a non-existent server. The body text read “You are my victim. I have downloaded malware on your computer. Send $600 US in crypto-currency to the account below within 24 hours and I will remove the software from your computer.”
I had to laugh at this. Really. You know if I had ever sent those crooks anything, you know they would be back asking then for $6,000. They would not stop until I was broke. I was thinking that even for $600 one could go get a new computer. Maybe that is why the would-be crooks chose that amount? Why don’t they just come into my house and take my computer! They can have it!
Or, even better, instead of giving everything back over to the world, give it to Jesus! Give it to God! I DO NOT want to come to terms with this world. It is a false peace that I make. My peace is in Christ!
The last line from the Scripture: “None of you can become my disciples unless you give it all up.” If you have come to terms with this world, fine, just know that this world will take everything that you have in the end. Give it over to God today, then the victory belongs to the Lord. You can run from the scammers, crooks, and evil doers of this world as they slowly take your life from you. OR, you can give your life over to Jesus and join in the victory already won. Just remember that it will be the hardest choice you will ever have to make.