Between my own high-level interest in worldwide missions and the support we give as a church to a variety of international endeavors, I receive a lot of related mail in my box at church on a regular basis. Some of it comes from organizations particularly dedicated to the cause of suffering for Christ around the world.
Just last week, one booklet sent to me listed the 50 most difficult countries in which to live as a Christian. There was no difficulty in finding so many nations where there is a significant price to pay for identification with Christ and the church. (And some of our own supported people are in these countries.)
A magazine arrived this weekend from Barnabas Aid – a ministry focused upon the persecuted church around the world. The pictures alone are enough to bring you to tears, let alone reading the articles of the severe challenges and atrocities that millions of our brothers and sisters face on a daily basis somewhere on this planet.
Without doubt, Christians are the most persecuted group of people in the world. Martyrs are added every day. But this is not surprising; Jesus said it would be this way. The surprise is how, by God’s grace, we have been able to find our lives stationed at a place of such unusual peace … so long as it lasts, which it surely will not indefinitely. We sense the erosion within our culture.
In today’s reading, Jesus turns to the large crowd following him and speaks to this issue of the cost of discipleship. He knew that they did not understand the realities that would lie ahead if they truly followed him. Instead, they saw only the current good times – the miracles, etc.
Luke 14:25 – Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
We need to understand the Middle Eastern sort of expression here of juxtaposing things. To translate it for us, it might be something like this… “Your commitment to being my disciple must be of such magnitude that your feelings for your family members would be, in comparison, like hating them.”
As we’ve written before about the idea of carrying a cross, this is an expression that would not be foreign to them, though it is also one that would have more meaning and impact after the crucifixion.
Luke 14:28 – “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
There is a nuclear power plant in Indiana named Marble Hill, begun in 1977 but never completed. It was to become a fully functioning, power-generating cornerstone of the nuclear power industry. Then, in 1984, after sinking $2.5 billion into getting the reactors to about the halfway point, the company behind the project abandoned it—they simply couldn’t afford to continue. They ended up selling some of the equipment to recover a few million in lost costs.
Unfinished and underfunded construction projects are memorials to foolishness, and so is a life that does not count the cost of discipleship.
Luke 14:31 – Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.
After the success of the surprise Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor in 1941, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was famously quoted as saying, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” Indeed, it did not end well for the Rising Sun. Likewise, a disciple must understand that conflict will be inevitable with an unbelieving world under the authority of the Evil One.
Luke 14:33 – In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. 34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
A final word on this subject is that of another relative comparison. The follower of Christ does not have to sell and give away all that he owns (as some have errantly taught), but the disciple must give up his rights of ownership. It all came from God, and it all belongs to God… the disciple is a steward.
The overall principle of this passage is for the follower of Christ to have a timeless realization that (to quote a commentary on this passage) “Christian discipleship is not some theoretical abstract ideal, but is indeed a hard reality.” Do we think of it correctly? “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
James said it is the rich who are oppressing you.
God through Moses told the people of Israel to not have a King, but to have the Lord rule over them.
He told them not to multiply chariots but to rely on him for their security.
In this country we are a Republic, but the rich still make the rules. One friend of mine in the past (who was in the corporate environment (currently a CEO of a non-profit) talked about “The Golden Rule” which he said was “He who has the gold makes the rules” and that is the case today.
Bribery is of course illegal in many counties. However in most democracies campaign contributions are not illegal. And so in this country defense contractors give huge campaign contributions to Senators and Representatives who want to multiply the amount of our modern day chariots.
One President (a former very successful general mind you!) sounded the alarm in his farewell speech. He warned about “The Military Industrial Complex” because he had to fight those who argued for more and more weaponry. The highly vaunted and idolized President who followed him misled the American people while running for office, claiming that there was a big missile gap between the US and the Soviet Empire. This grieved Eisenhower because he knew that Kennedy was being provided with information that showed this was not true.
In his arrogance Kennedy decided to put nuclear missiles in Turkey and the other empire responded by putting nuclear missiles in Cuba. After the US government put a blockade on Cuba the other empire withdrew their nuclear weapons. From my understanding this was because a secret agreement was made that we would quietly get our nuclear missiles out of Turkey – which is what the other empire wanted all along.
What does this all have to do with God and serving Jesus? Briefly God appoints people to be in charge in various nations. In this nation we are ostensibly a Republic and we appoint leaders as servants of ours.
Since Americans are notorious about being ignorant of what happens around the world, it makes it very easy to mislead us.
The American people elect the people in office. The people in office want campaign contributions and therefore since “A bribe blinds the eyes of the righteous” and they take campaign contributions from the “military industrial complex” they will argue for more and more money being spent. Same with Government agencies. They need outside threats in order to justify their existence.
The media is relatively lazy and is owned by big corporations. Not only does the media get advertising from defense contractors, they want to usually “play nice” with those in government, who grant them access and who regulate them and even “spy” on them.
Nuclear war may be years or decades away, but it is coming. Nuclear war itself, is a little more survivable than people tend to think it is. However our very complex society isn’t going to remain intact. Food comes from far away places. The grain the farmers plant is (as I understand it) genetically modified so that it won’t regrow itself each year. Each year they need to buy the genetically enhanced grain and seeds from a major company that produces the seeds. So after a nuclear war the fields will not be growing be food. Commerce, of course, is now mostly electronic and that will all come to a close.
While we are the richest country to ever be in existence we are not the most resilient country.
Scripture exhorts us to pray for our leaders etc…
There is more reason to do that than most of us think.
In the Old Testament during the time David ruled over Judah, while a son of Saul still ruled over Israel, the generals of Israel and Judah, Abner and Joab agreed to have a dozen or so of each of their men face off in a face to face contest. Each of these men at the commencement of the contest stepped forward and simultaneously grabbed their opponents beards with one hand and plunge a sword into their opponent with the other. This was all so simultaneous that all these participants in this mini-battle died.
That is basically where we are at in the nuclear realm. The US though is jockeying for better position, putting anti-ballistic missile systems around the remnants of this other still somewhat military strong nation. However this is a game that might go awry.
While most of us in this country aren’t aware of things like expanding missile defenses and the like … don’t think that the ones we are surrounding with missiles aren’t aware. The last time they had a major military buildup on their borders they were invaded and lost 20 million people or so in that war. They are worried.
Over the past decade or so they restarted their civil defense system. Everyone in their capital city of 20 million people has a bunker to go to in the event of a nuclear war. Other former nuclear bunkers are being brought back into operational order throughout their country.
In the event of a nuclear war, probably the leaders of the nation will survive in bunkers. So will many of the military charged with overseeing the war probably survive in bunkers. There are some rumors of other shelters underground … in the US, but there is no telling how many they might hold, or if they even exist.
I’m just astonished that the US is consistently and is now constantly provoking a country that has mostly wanted to be our friend since the end of the cold-war. There leader keeps calling us “partner” and “partners” and yet our arrogant military and spy type leaders just basically snarl at them.
For those who are interested in “Russian Election Meddling” please watch the (I think) HBO movie, “Spinning Boris” to see what real election meddling is really like. It is also available through Amazon. Tell me if the movie is any good, I’d like to watch it someday.
But there are many cruel people in government who are blind to righteousness. As part of the most powerful military in the world, they only want more power, though they haven’t used the power they have very justly.
Things are changing very fast.
The debt is now exploding.
Asymmetrical warfare gives small countries and groups great power to damage a powerful complex country.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) is now becoming more real and what nation will be at the forefront of utilizing this is uncertain.
The amount of Engineers graduating in China is very large, and this will bring even more technologies to that country.
You mentioned,”We sense the erosion within our culture.” All these things have ramifications. Pride which we have in abundance, “comes before the fall” as it says in Proverbs.
The traditional astonishing level of ignorance that people have in the US about others around the world … this level is only accelerating. It is impossible to hold elected people accountable for foreign policy actions when we don’t understand what is happening.
While stories of Christian persecution around the world are heartbreaking, the crises developing in this country are likely to be the worst. Paul said something about helping others when they are in trouble and then maybe they will later have the opportunity to offer help…
What troubles me about the desire to provoke Russia, isn’t that it is a certain percentage of people that want to bother Russia, it is that it is almost universal – across the board – throughout the media – across political boundaries – even popular among some in the clergy.
It isn’t that Russia is like North Korea… it is just that so many financial interests in this country despise Russia … for apparently financial gain.
Maybe those of you who disagree with me can tell me when in the US the people collectively decided to wake up to General Eisenhower’s concern about the problems of “The Military-Industrial-Complex”? People never did. Instead they rejected Eisenhower’s measured military approaches and put hot-head JFK in power, who decided we needed to invade Cuba, but didn’t want the world to know it was us who actually invaded Cuba so we did so without providing air support to the army of Cubans that wanted to fight against Cuba. And so there was the “Bay-Of-Pigs” fiasco. Then people in the Kennedy administration decided to blame Eisenhower… for there was some sketch of this as being an option to deal with Cuba.
The brashness of Kennedy to blame Eisenhower for his inability to invade Cuba, when prior to that Eisenhower oversaw the invasion of well-fortified Europe in the massive operation known as D-Day.
The sin in this country is so tangible, the arrogance is so tangible, the unconcern for the poor is so tangible, the amount of people in power who do detestable things … and get away with it for years and years witness media icons and their “casting couches” and elected leaders having having funds to pay off accusers. Then there are the rumors that a vast number of leaders are held captive by blackmail, perhaps having once been entrapped and video-taped … now beholden to their evil groups.
Throughout the levels of government people have compromised their positions and …
No accountability yet they can eavesdrop on others they disagree with and evaluate all they do to find ways to keep themselves in power.
Powerful political people have the word “body-count” associated with themselves. Multitudes of mysterious suicides, plane crashes, death by random robberies.
While some of these things “come to light” it should be noted that batches of leaked documents with hints of “wetworks” and veiled threats of punishing people as an example whether or not they were actually guilty … not all such batches of documents have been released. It can only be inferred that the most dangerous leaked documents to a certain news source are being retained as protection against the untimely death of the one publishing the leaked documents.
My point is that corruption is likely far worse than we think it is. As Christians we should be aware…
What if one of these really bad people came to repentance? What about the sermon that mentioned Jeffrey Dahlmer? Could we extend grace to someone who wanted to turn his life around and follow the maker of the universe?
The love and grace of Jesus in us, means we must extend that grace and love to those who repent.