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Commitment: The Serious Business of Following Jesus

We expend great creativity in coming up with ways to get around the truth, or to obscure it. I ran across a list of real estate terms used in selling houses, along with a "translation" for us lay people.

Consider some of these:

Unobstructed view: No trees

Waiting your imaginative touch: Complete wreck

Handyman's dream: Owner's nightmare

Pond site: Swamp

Central to everything: A very noisy area

Easy commuting: Remote from everything

Charm all its own: Don't lean on old porch rail

Needs finishing touches: Needs roof

We can do that kind of thing with our religious faith. There are creative ways of saying, "Let me bury my family." The only thing that moves us beyond this is obedience. Without this simple discipline a child burns his fingers on the stove after his mother tells him it is hot. A kid in school fails a test because she did not follow instructions. A marriage falls apart because the partners are not obedient to the rules of relationships which govern a marriage. A friendship crumbles because the two friends do not honor their mutual pact of honesty.

To this reluctant man, and to our reluctance, Jesus commands, "Let the dead bury the dead." Let those who have no spiritual insight or interest attend to these other matters, but you get out of your spiritually dead surroundings and follow me! Let those who have no sense of duty to the Kingdom meet the requirements of the Law. You join me now to overcome the power of death.

A volunteer is impulsive. A draftee is reluctant. A third man enters the picture. We don't know if he volunteered or was called to join Jesus. All we know is his answer: "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Here is a man who brings to our attention:

III. The Danger of Indecisiveness

Once again the request seems logical. All he wanted was to say goodbye to the family. That should not take too long, should it?

The time element was not the issue. Jesus knew that the issue was this man's double-mindedness, his inability to decide one way or the other. Indecisive people have a tough time following Christ. In fact, they have a tough time doing anything.

When I was growing up my best friend's mother was such a person. We would ask if my friend could come to my house to play. I can still see her eyes as she would divert her eyes and whisper apologetically, "Well, I don't know. We better wait until his Daddy gets home and ask him." That was her stock answer to every request. I realize now there was more to it than simple indecisiveness, but her inability to decide used to drive me crazy!

We hear from the lips of this third man in the narrative those two telling words: "But first ..." They indicate his indecision about what to do.

I hear those words fairly often as I speak with people. I talk to a teenager about faith and get told, "Well, OK, but let me have some fun first." I talk to a young couple about getting involved in the church. The answer comes: "Yes, we will, but first let us get our children grown." I speak to a middle-aged couple and hear, "Sure, we're interested, but we have so many responsibilities now. We'll come when we get the house paid off and the kids out of college." I talk to an older adult and hear, "Absolutely! I'm going to start coming, but first let me get used to retirement and my new routine." You know what happens. By the time all the conditions of the "but first" reply are met, friends and family are walking behind the box out to that unhappy place.

To all of this Jesus says, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom." Plows in His day had only one handle and they required the farmer's whole attention. Jesus was saying that the plowpoint was set and the team had been signaled to go. To wonder then would be to defeat the whole purpose. As with an ancient plow, your religious commitment needs single-minded, full attention. This is not the time for looking back to see what might have been. This is the time for looking squarely ahead to what is to come. Forget the excuses. Follow Christ!

When Cortez led his Conquistadors into Mexico in search of gold, he burned his ships in the harbor. He did not want his soldiers looking back over their shoulders at the way home. He left only one course -- straight ahead. So it is with faith.

Three men came along. One was impulsive and did not think through his actions. Another was reluctant and held back. A third was indecisive and could not seem to make up his mind. To all of these -- to all of us -- Jesus stands before us and waves us onward. He changes our perspective and straightens out our thinking.

Our refusal to see life from His angle makes us similar to a woman in an ancient legend from India. The woman lived with her family in a rural area. Her husband was killed by a tiger one year. A son was bitten by a cobra the next. A daughter was trampled by an elephant the next year. Finally someone asked her why she did not move to the city. She replied, "What? Don't you know that cities are dangerous?"

To go to Christ is dangerous. It will change us. But is that worse than staying where we are now?

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