Here are three passages:
“While Jesus was still taking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to them, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to the disciples he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.'”
“He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.’ Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'”
Luke 9: 57-62
“Now about virgins… because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”
“What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none”
“I would like you to be free from concern. An umarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided.”
1 Corinthians 7:25-34
I have compiled all of these verses because they represent a very troubling idea to me. Just when I thought that I was coming to a place in my life where selfishness was less of a problem than it used to be, I realized that I was simply walking on a plateau, and that the mountain indeed climbs higher. There is much more selfishness to conquer. And this selfishness is a selfishness that seems so right sometimes, that any moral human with a right conscience would endorse. And that is: putting a signficant other before yourself, but so much so that they are your main objective. Its romance. It’s thinking about a person at all times. It is selfless infatuation, where you are consumed by the idea of: “What can I do to make this person happy.”
I had no idea that even this was selfishness, if it gets in the way of the Lord’s concerns. And this makes me very upset, because it seems totally unfair that we are to: remain single and unmarried if we can help it, leave our families and wives behind to follow the Lord, and even to forego burying our dead if the cause of Christ calls. In these passages we see Jesus refuse to acknowledge his mother and brothers when he is about the Lord’s work, we see Him command his followers to forget about their families and drop what they are doing to follow him, and we see Paul remind us how distracting a relationship with a spouse can be. Married couples will face many troubles in this life. Not just the friction of living together and having conflict, but trouble from its polar direction: when you love your spouse too much (or in the wrong balance of loves, ie too much eros not enough agape). These passages seem to suggest that trouble will find you if you love the world and even its people too much. When you think about the question: “Is the Lord number one in my life?” – consider these categories. Could you leave your mother’s funeral to go witness to someone or feed the homeless or serve the church? When Jesus says ‘I need you to surrender all,’ he really means all, doesn’t he. There is no middle ground here. You even have to surrender your most precious possessions of all: the people that you love.
Imagine if you had a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend who was being called to overseas missions. (The issue of a “calling” and how you know when you are called vs. your own desires is another issue.) But assuming they are truly being called, you find yourself in a position where you are held to your present environment by a job or school or some other unremovable system in your life. You just can’t go with them. You have to stay put and continue with your work. What would you do? Of course, your natural inclination would be jealousy. You might say something like, “Baby, I really want to go with you. Can you wait so we can both experience it together?” Or “how am I going to survive when you are in another country and I am here stuck in the same old routine, doing the same crap I do everyday?” You might even say, “Don’t you want me to come too? Don’t you need me to come? It doesn’t bother you that you are leaving your love at home and going somewhere dangerous, somewhere unpredictable, where you won’t have anyone to come home to at night? Do you really even care about me the way I care about you?” This is such an opportunity for doubt, I think. I have no idea how you would get through it if you were the party being left. I can only hope that I never find myself in this situation. I don’t think I would last. I would be really hurt. It would be absolute torture for a whole year. But I want to get to a place where I wouldn’t be hurt or tortured. I want to be able to say: God wants you overseas. So go. I am thinking about the Lord’s concerns. Not my own. So go.
“If you love something, let it go. If it comes back, it is yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”