“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’” (Matthew 16: 24, 25)
“I don’t want to put my family at risk. That area of town is not safe. I hear about the crime on the news, so I don’t feel comfortable about bringing my kids and wife there to work on Saturday.”
We have heard comments like this one when we asked Christian parents to come with us and serve with their families to help build homes for the poor residents of inner city Atlanta. We had recently moved there from the West Coast with our youngest son, a junior in high school (our oldest was away in college), and while we raised support to enter Appalachia to work among the needy there, we jumped into ministry with existing organizations working among the poor in the greater Atlanta area.
I always felt sorry, and a little scared, for professing Christians who made those kinds of statements. Did they think their middle and upper-middle-class lifestyles in the ‘burbs was safer than the inner city? I’m talking soul-safe.
Research reveals the lie it is to assume safety in our North American middle and upper-middle class form of Christianity as lived by many in today’s churches. A huge percentage of young people who have grown up in church, Sunday school, and youth group with all their associated activities, leave home and also leave the church. Too many never return, except perhaps on the two big holidays: Easter and Christmas.
Anyone who has been awake in church over the past decades knows this to be true. We love seeing young people and young families involved in our churches, but the truth is, too many stay away, living their lives and raising their children outside of the rule of God.
Frightening. Jesus knew what he was talking about: “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it.” Are we listening? Because Jesus is still speaking the same words to us today. Do we believe what he says?
I weep sometimes as I pray for my own children, and now, grandchildren. Giving up the people you love is not an easy, light matter. It is an every day matter, though.
It is the bedrock of following Jesus. Giving up first ourselves and then the ones we love. To love God supremely, over every other love, is what he demands (Matthew 23:37). And rightfully so (I Peter 1:17-19).
I believe him. I believe what he says. I do not want to be the loser, nor see my loved ones the losers, eternally, because we held onto our lives and loves now rather than letting God have them.
I believe these words of Jesus as well: “but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Finders keepers.
This is the happy part! We see through a glass darkly now, but if we obey Jesus, because we know he is trustworthy, one day we will have overflowing joy in the Presence of our Lord. Everything we thought we were losing in this life, we were gaining forever.
And forever is a very long time.
This giving up to gain is the crux of discipleship, the core of discipleship, and to call ourselves disciples of Jesus, we must be living this truth. Jesus said so. It is something we must renew daily because it doesn’t come natural to us.
Right. So he gives us supernatural power to do it.
 Refer to The Barna Group https://www.barna.org/ ; Unchristian: what a new generation really thinks about Christianity … and why it matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Baker Books, 2007; Almost Christian: what the faith of our teenagers is telling the American church by Kenda Creasy Dean, Oxford University Press, 2010.