An old saying is that we are all just ships in the night, that nothing is permanent and we will all pass on to the next life sooner or later. What would Jesus say to that?
Let us understand that we are all nomads, pilgrims.
We will look at the highest priority in life, family values, plowing, black and white values and Christians as nomads.
The priority of Jesus
In Luke 9:51-62 is a story of distractions and the priority of Jesus. Do we squeeze Jesus into our plans or does he shape our plans? Do we allow persecution to distract us from the mission of the church? Imagine a company violating our rights to freedom of religion. Most of us might take them to court and spend a lot of time and money seeking justice. It is not an evil thing to do, but does it distract us from the priority of the Gospel? Most of us spend hours feathering our nests and preparing a home. This too is not an evil thing, but can the comforts of home distract us from the priority of Jesus? Honoring parents has a very high priority in the Bible, but can family distract us from an even greater priority, Jesus?
Family values vs Kingdom values
Many Christians have jumped on the political bandwagon of “family values.” Perhaps we believe that it is a euphemism for “Christian values.” InLuke 9:51-62 Jesus seems to challenge that idea. One individual says he has to go and bury a parent and another wants to say goodbye to the family. They seem like perfectly reasonable requests. Jesus did not ask them to sever family ties, but used the situation to teach a valuable lesson. While many family values are also Christian values, they are not always the same thing. A family name can be an idol. A family business can be worshiped before God is worshiped. Family relationships can come between us and God. While family is very important, it is God who made family and God is more important. Kingdom values are higher than family values.
How to plow a straight line
Not many modern western farmers plow with oxen any more, although I knew a farmer from Maryland who returned to a team of oxen and claimed a far greater return on investment than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive farm machinery. He also said he was much happier. My father-in-law reminisced about farming with horses and told the story of how to keep a straight line. Just like the story in Luke 9:51-62 you can’t remove your hand from the plow or take your eye off your marker. To plough a straight line the farmer would choose a tree branch or other marker at the end of the field and stay fixated on that until the row was done. As farmers in God’s field, we must keep our eyes on Jesus and our hands on the plow.
Not everything is black and white
Have you ever met people who claim that everything is either black or white, good or bad. Jesus would probably dispute that because in Luke 9:51-62 he reminds us that some choices are between two good things. Easy choices are between good and bad. We also know that sometimes we must choose between two evils, like a mother’s life or her unborn baby’s. Another example is Rahab who had to choose between the death of two Israelites and telling a lie, the lesser of two evils. Jesus set before us the choice between two good things, burying a parent versus following him, or saying goodbye to family versus following him. Both are good, but one is a greater good. The kingdom of heaven has priority over other good things that we could be doing. What is our choice today?
Christians as nomads
We used to speak of Christians as pilgrims on earth, but the word has fallen out of use and people don’t really know what it means anymore. Jesus alluded to this aspect of the Christian life in Luke 9:51-62. Paul spoke it in different terms saying that of our citizenship is not of this world but of heaven (Philippians 3:20). Like the children of Israel who had been freed from Egyptian slavery we wander in the wilderness like nomads not yet having fully experienced eternal life with God. We don’t always know where we are going, but we do know who is leading us. And so we are wandering nomads but also pilgrims on a journey to a holy place, heaven, just as the ancient Israelites traveled to their pilgrim festivals three times a year to worship God.
Our highest priorities in life are the things of God. Family values are important but kingdom values are more important. Let us keep our hands on the plow as we journey on our pilgrimage into our eternal rest with God.