Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Lose Your Life

Yesterday I wrote about the cost of discipleship, the various renunciations, etc. But there’s one other important thing you have to do: lose your life. “Whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:24 and parallels). This is not an isolated statement of Jesus; it appears in all the Gospels, in some more than once (in the Synoptics it occurs in the context of carrying one’s cross; in John the parallel is the grain of wheat that must die to bear fruit).

What is Jesus talking about here? The larger context is, as in yesterday’s post, discipleship. If you want to be Jesus’ disciple (it’s an invitation, not a coercion), then you have to deny yourself, take up your cross—daily—and follow Him. Then comes the paradox: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” And the further explanation: “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in his glory…”

What does it mean, practically, to “save your life” and to “lose your life”? Anything you do to preserve your (false) sense of security, to build your ego, to avoid the demands and sufferings required by faithfulness to the Gospel, or simply to insulate yourself in a comfortable and self-centered way of life, storing up earthly instead of heavenly treasure, is “saving your life.” This you will be sure to lose, in the end if not sooner. Saving your life is also related to being ashamed of Jesus and his words. You may “save your life” by not standing up for the words of Jesus and the teachings of his Church, especially in hotly debated issues like abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and various unacceptable forms of religious or cultural “diversity.” Sure, you may blend in with the crowd and not be ostracized or berated for taking an unpopular stand, but what gain is that if the Son of Man is ashamed of your cowardice when He returns in his power and glory?

To “lose your life” is to give all in the service of Christ and his Gospel, his Church. It is to make the necessary sacrifices that come with not being ashamed of his words, being willing to lose the esteem of your politically correct peers for Jesus’ sake. It is being willing to serve others before yourself, to have the courage of your convictions, to let go of anything or anyone that would prove an obstacle to your unswerving fidelity to the Truth and Love of God. Losing your life is constantly making choices in accord with the Gospel, which often end up going against the grain of this world’s pleasure-loving and godless ways. Why gain the "world" when you can gain the Kingdom of Heaven? You can’t have both, so it’s time to make a choice. Whose friend do you want to be when the Lord returns and all worldly gains vanish?

Take up your cross and follow Jesus. What have you got to lose? Only your life, that is, the superficial, selfish life that this world promotes. Lose that, and save your true self for eternal happiness.