Red: Week 3 Daily Reflection Monday, October 2015
This is the third week of daily reflections based on the sermon series, "Red: Understanding the Hard Sayings of Jesus." This week we'll be focusing on lessons of discipleship learned from Luke 14:26, where Jesus states "Unless you hate father, mother, sister, brother, wife and children--even yourself--you cannot be my disciple."
One of my favorite daily devotional books is a year-long devotional comprised of reflections by E. Stanley Jones. Jones was a Presbyterian missionary, preacher and best-selling author of twenty-eight books, including ten full-year devotionals. He is said to have preached some sixty thousand times in his life, and in 1938 was called by Time magazine, "the world's greatest missionary."
What I've always loved about Jones' writing and his advice on living the Christian life is the simplicity with which he approached it. "This isn't rocket science," Jones basically says over a hundred times or more in my devotional, "it's just about following Jesus."
This week as I've been thinking about Jesus hard words in Luke 14:26 about "hating" your family, spouse and even yourself, I found myself drawn to a particular devotion by Jones in my book that he titled "Christianize Your Relationships."
Now if you are reading this and did not get the chance to listen to my sermon this past Sunday on Luke 14:26 you can read through the text HERE. Suffice to say, Jesus basically meant that you needed to turn everything in your life that you value over to God, surrender your life and pursue God first.
Which, as it turns out, includes our family relationships.
Surrendering our family relationships is a lot harder than it sounds, believe it or not. No one pushes our buttons, riles us up, pulls our heart strings, warms our spirit, drives us crazy like our family. Our relationships with father, mother, sister, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles cousins, inlaws, outlaws... these are some of the most definitive relationships in our lives.
And letting go of the feelings that we feel around them is difficult business. Some of us harbor resentment and anger toward our family members--bitter feelings that we feel we can never release. Some of us feel great waves of guilt and shame when we interact with family, and try as we might we can't seem to feel anything else. Some of us find ourselves perhaps a bit too connected and enmeshed with our family members, both loving the connectedness and resenting it at the same time. The list goes on and on.
E. Stanley Jones exhorted followers of Jesus to "Christianize" these relationships by practicing "sympathetic imagination," toward family members who you struggle with, as you try to understand things from their point of view. He encouraged speaking words of grace and peace, not letting hasty thoughts and emotions govern your speech. And then he said something that really landed on me:
"Don't confess the other person's sins: confess your own--which will elicit confession in the other person. Even if it doesn't, you have done something to yourself; you have let your "peace return to you." (reference--Matt 10:13)
Surrendering your family relationships will require both strength and humility. It requires strength because you will need to let go of the feelings (both good and not so good) that have mediated those relationships in the past. And you will need to allow yourself to be vulnerable, grace-filled and empathetic if you want to move forward in "The Way" of Jesus.
If you have difficult family relationships that need to be surrendered, pray today that God will give you the strength and humility to do just that. And that God will fill you with the desire to speak grace and peace into the lives of those closest to you as you seek to more fully follow in the footsteps of His Son Jesus Christ.