Jesus’ call for us to abandon worldly things and follow him can sometimes seem extreme. Consider Matthew 8:22:
But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Is Jesus Being Harsh?
Jesus spoke these controversial words to a disciple asking to bury his father before following Jesus. Some people look at the verse and say it makes Jesus look harsh and uncaring or that he seems to be lacking compassion. After all, the guy just lost his father, right?
But does that conclusion fit what we know about Jesus’ character from looking at the rest of the gospels? Jesus is always the exact picture of compassion, so there must be something else going on.
Some people read this verse and feel that Jesus’ standards are too high. He wants us to drop everything, forget the important things around us, and simply follow him. While this is true to an extent, as we do need to put God first and give him priority in our lives, we have to remember that this will look different for everybody.
God Knows Best
God knows us intimately. He knows what we’re capable of, what we need spiritually, and what it will take to get us there. He knows the sacrifices we may need to make and the trials we may have to go through in order to get where He needs us to be to fulfill our purpose here on earth and further God’s kingdom. Only God knows this, and it’s different for everyone.
Therefore, what Jesus calls one person to do may seem extreme to others, but it may be what that person needs. What Jesus calls another person to do may seem easy, but to that person it’s enough. Who are we to question the Almighty God, the One who created all of us uniquely and set the world into motion?
For this disciple, maybe his priorities were off and he wasn’t taking Jesus and the calling Jesus had for him seriously. Maybe this disciple was meant for great things that would require him to give himself completely to Jesus, watching him closely and then taking what he learned out into the world. Maybe he needed some harsh-sounding words to wake him up. Sometimes we need that too if we’re not listening.
For us, Jesus’ call for us to follow him could mean many different things. It may mean that, like the disciple in this verse, we need to leave everything behind and throw ourselves completely into the ministry, forsaking every good thing in our lives for something better. It may mean we need to change careers or start a ministry. Maybe He’ll call us to develop a relationship with an unbeliever and work at winning them to Christ. Or maybe we’ll be asked to spend time and energy into discipling other believers and helping them grow spiritually.
Perhaps He simply wants us to be more positive, friendly, and loving so that our lives can be an example of Christ’s love to others. Maybe He just wants us to start out by forgiving someone.
God’s Calling for Us
Whatever He calls us to do, we won’t know what it is unless we stay connected and close to Him so we can hear and recognize His voice. We need to be alert and pay attention to God’s signs that are speaking to us. We need to make sure we are not so of the world that we don’t see His signs and hear Him speaking to us.
When we do hear Jesus calling, asking us to follow Him, we also need to be willing to obey. When He calls, we may very well be holding on to things in the world that we’ll have to let go. Some things may be obviously interfering in God’s plan for us, but other things may be holding us back in ways we are unaware of at the time. Whatever Jesus calls us to do, we need to rest in the faith that He knows best and be willing to simply follow Him. We can’t pick and choose what we’re willing to do, and we can’t wait for a more convenient time to do what He asks of us.
Whatever Jesus calls us to do, part of that calling will always be to set our lives in a pattern after His own life. There are several areas where He wants all of us to follow Him by doing as He did – things like loving your neighbor as yourself, being kind to one another, not judging people or gossiping about others, hating evil and clinging to what is good etc.
Every good thing Jesus did during His earthly life and everything He preached, we are to aspire to. We are to always strive to be like Jesus in every way. But we will only discover the specific calling He has for our lives by staying close to Him and listening with an obedient heart.
If we do this, He will speak to us and give us the direction we need to fulfill His great purpose in our lives.