Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
Losing is different from giving.
My parents lost their lives to cancer. I have lost exactly two (expensive) fobs to get into the Presbytery Office building. I have lost my mind on at least one occasion.
Kayla Mueller gave her life for Syrian victims. She didn’t lose her life. She gave it. Yes, technically a building fell on her after a bombing or maybe someone personally killed her. Either way, she chose to give up her life in a global way for the sake of the suffering in Syria.
Deah Barakat gave up his time to offer free dental care to Syrian refugees. (But then someone took his life, which is different from losing or giving, but that’s for another post.)
Many of my my colleagues have given their lives for the institutional church. (Or we think we have.)
A fine preacher pointed out last Sunday that Jesus said we can save our lives by losing them, but then she wondered if he wasn’t really talking about giving rather than losing.
Nerd alert: The Greek for for “will lose” is ἀπολέσει which means something like “utterly perish” or “cause to be lost.” In other words, Jesus isn’t talking about “losing” as in losing our keys. Jesus is talking about an action more akin to giving up something or allowing something to die.
Jesus didn’t lose his life for the sake of love. Jesus gave his life for the sake of love. Huge difference.
So, this makes “giving up something for Lent” different too.
I get the spiritual discipline of loving something so much (chocolate, coffee, bacon) that refraining from it for 40 days might remind us of Jesus’ sacrifice. But give me a break.
Jesus doesn’t much care if we give up our favorite food. Jesus cares if we give up our lives. And I’m not just talking about who or what we’d take a bullet for.
I’m talking about who or what we’d give up our personal dreams/goals/habits for. Giving our lives for what Jesus gave his life for seems like our only choice, if we hope to be serious disciples.
This sounds much preachier than I expected. But Lent is serious business. And I confess that I’m pretty terrible at it.
Image source here.