To Lose One’s Life

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been reading Gerhard Lohfink’s book Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was.  In the first of his chapters addressing the “Who He Was” part of the title, Lohfink addresses Jesus’ statement in Luke’s Gospel that “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

Lohfink makes the important point that this is not just, or even primarily, about the surrender of life in death.  Human beings, he writes

are also desperately engaged in “saving” their own desire and dreams, their own guiding images and plans for their lives.  But these very rescue actions cause them to lose their lives – namely, the true lives that existence under the rule of God would give them.  “To lose one’s life” therefore refers not only to martyrdom but in given circumstances to the surrender of one’s secure bourgeoise existence for the reign of God.

This is important because if we put the focus on martyrdom, it is easy to let ourselves off the hook – Oh, I’m not being called to lay down my (physical) life for God.  Even when we understand Jesus’ words more broadly, we want to resist them.  Lohfink continues

Such radicality for the sake of God’s project is not everyone’s thing.  Normally we want not “either-or” but”both-and.”  In particular, people familiar with the Gospel and desiring to serve God can be deeply conflicted here.  They want to be there for God, but they also want space for themselves.  They want to make a place for God in their lives, but they also want to have free segments in which they decide for themselves about their lives.  They want to do the will of God, but at the same time, they want to live out their dreams and longings.

That description pretty much sounds like many, if not most, of us.  And Jesus is clear in his reaction to that way of thinking: “No one can serve two masters.”  That is, Lohfink paraphrases, “when it is a question of God an the reign of God, there can be nothing  but undivided self-surrender.”  And that, suggests Lohfink, is a central part of Jesus’ message.

I can see the tagline of the commercial: Discipleship in Christ – It’s Not for the Faint of Heart!