At church this morning, the topic was sacrifice and surrender to Christ. The pastor preached about the rich young ruler, who was loved by Jesus, and yet the rich young ruler did not obey Jesus' instructions to sell his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Jesus (Mark 10:17-31).
The "Prayer of
Confession" included this line: "We would present to You our very lives,
if we could only do so in comfort." That's portrayed as a bad thing.
I'm not a big fan of the themes of sacrifice and surrender. Why
does doing good have to entail sacrifice, or surrender, or me giving
something up, or me somehow being uncomfortable? Can't I do good from
within my comfort zone? And do I have to be absolutely perfect?
I tend to cringe when religious leaders step in and present ways for us
to sacrifice. Give, give, give! Obey us! Perhaps my family's
experiences in the Armstrongite movement has colored how I see this
At church this morning, however, although I didn't care
for the Prayer of Confession, I actually did enjoy some of the things
that I heard and sang. In terms of the sermon, the pastor noted that
the story of the rich young ruler says that Jesus loved him, and so the
ruler was choosing his own riches rather than a relationship with
Jesus. According to my pastor, the rich young ruler probably came to
Jesus out of a sense of emptiness, but he chose to return to his
emptiness rather than to give up his riches. And, while I for a long time have not been a great fan of the hymn "I Surrender All" (see here),
I noticed as I sang and reread the lyrics that it contained themes that
I liked: feeling God's presence, knowing that I am God's, trusting God,
being filled with God's love, being strengthened by God, being blessed
by God, etc. In essence, the hymn portrayed God as someone who loves me
and wants to be present in my life.
I then wondered: What exactly would the rich young man have gained had he left all behind and followed Jesus? I
myself would be quite reluctant to leave behind a comfortable place to
live and to travel around in the hot sun with a bunch of smelly guys who
liked to debate amongst themselves about who was the greatest. And
yet, I probably would want to be around someone who was my friend and
who loved me----Jesus. And I would like to be a part of something that
was doing a lot of good, as was the Jesus movement, which was healing
people, driving out demons, and changing people's lives and making them
new. It's nice to accumulate stuff. But isn't it better to do something that truly matters?
At the present time, I don't feel compelled to give anything up, per se. But
I am sensitized to the importance that I embrace Jesus' love, and try
to do good in the world. Then, if that ever entails me giving something
up----to be part of something that God is doing, or to contribute time
or money to something that helps people----that hopefully I would be
willing to do so. I'd do so with discretion, mind you. I
won't give to a ministry or organization where the leaders get rich off
of the flock's donations. But I'd be open to contributing my time and
money to something other than myself, for the benefit of others. And,
in the process, I benefit, as I experience God more deeply and see that
good is being accomplished.