Jesus’ Syllabus

By J. Mary Luti

“If you do not hate your father and mother… you cannot be my disciple.” — Luke 14:26

I know a professor who is delightful in the classroom. His courses routinely overfill. But he loathes those huge classes. He suspects many students come for his style, not his material, to be entertained, not educated. He can’t get a personality transplant, so he’s revised the course requirements — now it’s a killer. This semester, the crowds thinned out fast.

“You must hate your family…” That’s a killer, too. Jesus sounds tired of being the teacher everybody likes but from whom nobody learns. Tired of crowds that come for surprising stories and clever banter with lawyers but remain unchanged. Maybe he’s stiffening the requirements to thin them out.

Or maybe he’s having a smelling-salts moment, head snapping back as he comprehends, with mind-clearing clarity, how much it’ll cost him to love what is most worthy of love, and to love it in and above all other loves. Maybe he’s saying it aloud to make it real for himself as well as for us: “I will have to loosen every tie that binds.”

Here’s a horrible vision of life: I’ll love you and let you live if you’re like me; I’ll hate you and kill you if you’re not. It’s the ruling vision of our world. We know the ferocious consequences of its demonic irrationality. The question is whether we have any sense at all of the sacrifice it will take to destroy it and create the boundless fellowship of God.

Jesus says, “You want to be my disciple? Then don’t come to me casually as if we were going to a picnic in the woods instead of a pitched battle in the anguished heart of the world. Read my syllabus. Read it again. Then come, follow me.”

Prayer

I’ve read it, Jesus. I’m not sure I can do it. Give me courage and grace.


J. Mary Luti is a retired seminary professor and United Church of Christ pastor. She shares prayers, sermons and marginal notes at Sicut Locutus Est.

The views expressed are those of the author or authors alone, and not those of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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