Saturday, 22 May 2010


'If Jesus said to someone: "Leave all else behind and follow me; resign your profession, quit your family, your people, and the home of your fathers," then he knew that to this call there was only one answer - the answer of single-minded obedience, and that it is only to this obedience that the promise of fellowship with Jesus is given. But we should probably argue thus: "Of course we are meant to take the call of Jesus with 'absolute seriousness', but after all the true way of obedience would be to continue all the more in our present occupations, to stay with our families, and serve him there in a spirit of true inward detachment." Again if he were to us: "Be not anxious", we should take him to mean: "Of course it is not wrong for us to be anxious: we must work and provide for ourselves and our dependents. If we did not we should be shirking our responsibilities. But all the time we ought to be inwardly free from all anxiety." Perhaps Jesus would say to us: "Whosoever smiteth thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." We should then suppose him to mean: "The way really to love your enemy is to fight him hard and hit him back." Jesus might say: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God", and we should interpret this thus: "Of course we should have to seek all sortts of other things first; how could we otherwise exist? What he really means is the final preparedness to stake all on the kingdom of God." All along we are trying to evade the obligation of single-minded, literal obedience.
How is such absurdity possible? What has happended that the word of Jesus can thus be degraded by this trifling, and thus left open to the mockery of the world? When orders are issued in other spheres of life there is no doubt whatever of their meaning. If a father sends his child to bed, the boy knows at once what he has to do. But suppose he has picked up a smattering of pseudo-theology. In that case he would argue more or less like this: "Father tells me to go to bed, but what he really means that I am tired, and he does not want me to be tired. I can overcome my tiredness just as well if I go out and play. Therefore though father tells me to go to bed, he really means: "Go out and play." If a child tried such arguments on his father or a citizen on his government, they would both meet with a kind of language they could not fail to understand - in short they would be punished. Are we to treat the commandment of Jesus differently from other orders and exchange single-minded obedience for downright disobedience? How could that be possible?'
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p.36.