As the date for my wedding quickly approaches, I have been reflecting more than usual on the concept of commitment. What does genuine commitment look like? How do you prepare for it? How do you make a new commitment while still honoring your other commitments, such as family, calling, and work? Our lives consist of so many different commitments, so many “yeses” to good, significant things. And I believe God intended us to have a variety of important relationships, roles, and callings. But I am also acutely aware of my limitations, limitations that prevent me from being able to say “yes” to all that I want to be and do. So as I make decisions about what to do and commit to do, what might Jesus have me reflect upon?
Thankfully, Luke records some important wisdom Jesus had to share about commitment. In Luke 9:57-62, Jesus encounters three different people who are all faced with the decision to make a commitment to follow him as a disciple or not. Assuming that most of you reading this have already made an initial commitment to follow Jesus, let’s think about this passage in terms of Jesus’ continued calling on our lives to serve him and know him more fully. What do Jesus’ responses in these three encounters teach us?
First, Jesus teaches us to count the cost of commitment.
Verses 57-58 say, “As [Jesus and his disciples] were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’
“Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head'” (NIV throughout).
Even though this man was eager to follow him, Jesus wanted to warn him that the path of committed discipleship would not be easy. Why? Because even Jesus as his master had no guarantee of comfort. When we make our next step along the road of discipleship, in our enthusiasm, we must not forget to temper our expectations with the truth that just as Jesus experienced discomfort, so will we. Jesus knows that if we make a commitment without counting the cost and acknowledging the difficulties, when those difficulties inevitably come, we are more likely to give up or grow bitter in our struggle.
Second, Jesus teaches us that our commitment to him must trump all our other commitments.
Verses 59-60 say, “He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’
“But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’
“Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.'”
In those days, a burial process and mourning period lasted an entire year. Jesus chose to be direct with this man, for a decision to commit to him could not wait. If he was to go back and bury his father, it would be after he committed to follow him. Our commitment to Jesus must come first, so that all our other commitments, even those to our own flesh and blood, are made in light of our primary commitment to him. This commitment is too important to compete on the same ground as all our other daily decisions. Rather, it is meant to be the foundation for every other decision.
Moreover, the primacy of our commitment to Christ is demonstrated not just when we choose to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, but when we choose to keep our relationship with him as the primary force in our lives. And when we are in communion with him, there is an organic, almost effortless way in which our other commitments are made and maintained. The tug-of-war on our time and attention is diminished as we live out of our identity in Christ.
Third, Jesus teaches us that commitment requires attentiveness.
Verses 61-62 say, “Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’
“Jesus replied, ‘No on who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'”
What happens if you’re looking backwards with a hand to the plow? You go off course. Jesus is saying that our service to him is dependent on our attentiveness to the present moment (keeping the plow in the earth) and the end goal of transformation into Christ-likeness (keeping the plow on course to the end of the field). If we allow our attention to be carried away by other things, then our commitment will be carried away as well. Our heart follows where our mind pays attention.
More than any other, Jesus’ response to this person illustrates that commitment to Christ requires continued action and forward movement. It’s not a one-time decision, but an overarching promise to continue to do in the future that which we are doing today. Isn’t that what commitment is all about?