Friday, September 3, 2010

What It Takes


Do I have what it takes to hike the rocky mountain trails in Dolly Sods, one of my favorite places in the world?
"Do you have what it takes to be a follower of mine," is pretty much what Jesus is asking in Luke 14:25-33. It is also the challenge that St. Paul writes to Philemon in that very short, masterful example of persuasion. Jesus wants to make sure that we don't let attachment to family or possessions get between us and doing what he expects of his followers. Paul wants to make it clear to Philemon that following Jesus means going beyond human expectations and loving as Jesus would.
Paul's letter to Philemon has meant a lot to me since I read long ago James Burtchell's Philemon's Problem. He reads the letter as it has traditionally been read: Paul trying to persuade Philemon to take back a runaway slave as a brother in Christ. This morning I read the introduction to the letter in The New Interpreter's Study Bible. It's the first time I've seen it said that Paul is really trying to effect a reconciliation between brothers, not between a slave and his master. I don't find the reasoning convincing, but in any case Paul is still asking a leader of a Christian community if he has what it takes to be a follower of Christ, to love another with the gracious love of Jesus. Both passages help me to ask myself the same question.
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