An Identity Change & Singlemindedness

If you notice, my identity changed. I'm working on a new blog that I will announce when I am ready for it, but I had to change my identity for it. I figured out another way to do it, but that was after spending two hours on it, so from now on this blog will say that it is written by Martin Luther. You regulars will know better. I am not Martin Luther.


If, as we read our Bibles, we heard Jesus speaking to us in this way today we should probably try to argue ourselves out of it like this: "It is true that the demand of Jesus is definite enough, but I have to remember that he never expects us to take his command legalistically. What he really wants me to have is faith. But my faith is not necessarily tied up with riches or poverty or anything of the kind. We may be both poor and rich in the spirit. It is not important that I should have no possessions, but if I do I must keep them as though I had them not, in other words I must cultivate a spirit of inward detachment, so that my heart is not in my possessions." Jesus said, "Sell thy goods," but he meant: "Do not let it be a matter of consequence to you that you have outward prosperity; rather keep your goods quietly, having them as if you had them not. Let not your heart be in your goods."

We are excusing ourselves from single-minded obedience to the word of Jesus on the pretext of legalism and a supposed preference for an obedience "in faith." The difference between ourselves and the rich young man is that he was not allowed to solace his regrets by saying: "Never mind what Jesus says, I can still hold on to my riches, but in a spirit of inner detachment. Despite my inadequacy I can take comfort in the thought that God has forgiven me my sins and can have fellowship with Christ in faith." But no, he went away sorrowful. Because he would not obey, he could not believe. In this the young man was quite hones. He went away from Jesus and indeed this honesty had more promise than any apparent communion with Jesus based on disobedience. As Jesus realized, the trouble with the young man was that he was not capable of such an inward detachment from riches. As an earnest seeker for perfection he had probably tried it a thousand times before and failed, as he showed by refusing to obey the word of Jesus when the moment of decision came. It is just here that the young man was entirely honest.

But we in our sophistry differ altogether from the heaarers of Jesus' word of whom the Bible speaks. 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."

If Jesus challenge us with the command: "Get out of it," we should take him to mean: "Stay where you are but cultivate that inward detachment."

Again, if he were to say 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 it thus: "Of course we should have to seek all sorts 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 the line we are trying to evade the obligation of single-minded, literal obedience.

That was from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship.

Watch out for the potholes.