I saw the quotation from David Livingstone on Facebook the other day, and it really hit me – I think it’s hit me hard many times over the years, but as I get older, and the blessings from God increase, and the onslaught of opposition from an enemy who hates people who take this sort of stuff literally, it hits me harder and harder each time I read quotes like it. People like Livingstone are a rarity, and would, doubtless, were they (he) alive today, be severely criticised by fellow Christians, for ‘forsaking all’ – as would men & women like C T Studd, William Carey, Gladys Aylward, Hudson Taylor, a massed army of Chinese and Eastern European pastors, and so many living today, not just in the past. Jesus’ tough, tough statement in Luke 14:26 – ‘”If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple’ is an anomaly to most people in most churches today. To ‘hate’ (forsake some versions say) mum, dad, kids, sisters, brothers – is so alien to the teaching of 21st century church, and it’s a flipping hard commandment to believe or understand, let alone follow…..but it IS a commission from Jesus. How can we acept some of his commandments, and ignore others…?
What Jesus is saying is to tell people plainly that they cannot both follow him as well as listen to other voices which might tell them not to follow Jesus. Verse 26 is very clearly a command for those people who hear Jesus’ Words, to count the cost of following him, namely the forsaking of all the most important natural relationships. If someone wants to follow Jesus, they have to be willing to leave – forsake – the people in their life who they have previously loved the most…parents, spouses, children and siblings. Wow…. over the last 30 years or so, whilst (thankfully) I have countless people who have encouraged me in the calling to which I (and plenty of others at the time!) believe God has called me to, I also get pretty heftily rebuked for giving up what I know God asked me to sacrifice way back in 1979, and then again in to a much greater degree, in 1987. Nine prophetic words in 6 weeks, all from different people, all unconnected, conformed that. I’ve recently had a conversation with people who think that, with what God has done with me, but far more especially THROUGH me, I should be more ‘famous’, and that my desire to remain ‘under the radar’ is the equivalent of choosing to be an ‘anti-hero’. I guess that’s a discussion that will, at some stage, continue, but until then, my ONLY desire is to know Christ and make Him known, and continue to go to places many others would never go to, not as a thing to boast about (in the past I’ve taken people with me to places that are dangerous, and they’ve made a big deal of ‘walking into danger’ – they haven’t been away with me for a while, nor in the future!) – I genuinely love the poor and tough places, especially in Colombia, and have no desire for fame except in heaven…..
Perhaps, just perhaps, we’ve missed in the ‘modern’ western church, with the emphasis we’ve given on ‘staying’ rather than going, on family rather than the totally unequivocal call of Jesus, and the Apostle Paul, to ‘forsake all’. I love people like Livingstone, Studd, and men like George Chen, Wang Ming Dao, Samuel Lamb (all Chinese pastors – though Wang is with Jesus now). Of course, family is vital. But where would Africa, India, and other nations of the world be, without men like the ones I’ve mentioned. Someday, it’d be my dream to mentioned in the same breath – or even right at the end of the same paragraph! – as some of those people…. having spent a large part of my 61 (almost!) years living around Brighton, I would often stand on Brighton seafront, looking at the very beach where Hudson Taylor shouted ‘GOD!! Give me China or I die!’ I’m quite sure I’m not in his league, by any stretch of the imagination, but a week today, I’ll be in Colombia – Cali, to be precise! – again, third time this year: and my heart’s cry, in unison with my many Colombian friends, pastors and lay-people, is the cry of Hudson Taylor for that wonderful yet very damaged nation.
How can we consider, as Livingstone quotes here, regard an ‘accolade’ or a ‘commission’ from an earthly king an honour, when we have the commission and the calling from the ‘Heavenly King’ which, so often, we ignore, as the ‘stuff of life’ consumes us, and days roll into weeks into years, and we make the most dangerous choice of all: what’s that? ‘The most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later’….