They Left Everything and Followed Him

In St. Luke’s account of the call of Simon, Jesus gets into Simon’s boat and tells Simon to lower his nets for a catch. Despite the fact that Simon and the others had been fishing all night and had caught nothing, Simon follows Jesus’ instructions. Luke tells us that “when they had done so, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.”

In the final line of the passage, Luke tells us that “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.”

They left everything – their jobs, their property, their family, and their friends – and followed Jesus. At the same time that doing that seems a courageous and difficult thing to do, there is something appealing to the idea of literally dropping everything to follow Jesus. Having quit my job at an international law firm and spent two years in Buddhist monasteries and retreat centers during my Buddhist years, I resonate with the decision of Simon and the others to completely leave behind their prior lives to devote themselves fully and completely to following Jesus.

For most of us today, however, I think the greater challenge is discerning what it means to leave everything and follow Jesus in the context of our current responsibilities, in the context of what Buddhists would call the life of the “householder” – e.g., someone married, with children, with duties in this world.

One way to phrase it is how can I be in this world, but not of this world? Or, to phrase it in the way my friend Gene and I have been doing in our conversation along similar lines, how can I Be Love in this world (in the fullest, capital L, non-egoic sense of the word Love) in the context of the life I have?

In this sense, leaving everything behind and following Jesus is a big challenge. Leaving everything behind (while still living and meeting our responsibilities in the world) means leaving behind greed, desire for honors and recognition and other things that pump up the ego, and abandoning much that the world of which we are a part values and says are important. And leaving everything behind requires a mindfulness and awareness of the needs around us that we sometimes lack.

Where is the challenge for you in leaving everything to follow Jesus?