I came to the story of the rich young guy in Luke 18 and honestly, I breezed right through it because I had already spent a fair chunk of time chewing on Mathew's account of this story a few months ago (here). But after my initial breeze-through, I forced myself to read it again...a couple things caught my eye.
You know the story: rich guy comes to Jesus wanting to know what he needs to do to 'inherit eternal life.' Jesus gives him a tract with the four spiritual laws. Oops, sorry...that's what we do. Jesus, on the other hand, completely forgets everything he learned in Sunday School and answers our man's question by telling him he needs to, get this, obey the law. Let's google it: see if we can find me a modern evangelism course that starts off by teaching people they need to obey the Ten Commandments. And yet this is exactly what Jesus does. Honestly, I don't have that one figured out yet. In any case, while it gives me significant pause, it didn't bother our rich guy one bit—he's got this Ten Commandment stuff in the bag and he tells Jesus as much.
Jesus doesn't dispute his claim to having been a good boy. He simply adds one more thing for the rich man to do. And this one thing puts the kabosh on his whole get-into-heaven quest. But wait, is it one thing that Jesus asks of him, or two? Jesus tells him
Sell everything you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.
My guess is that Part One—the garage sale idea—was enough to derail our guy. Getting any of us to part with our filthy lucre is a pretty tall order...and the more we have of it, the more attached to it we tend to be. But I really wonder what might have happened if Jesus had left it at that—just get rid of your stuff and you're good to go. Here we have a rich guy in complete control of his life. If all Jesus gave him was Part One, and our rich guy managed to pull it off, then all we'd end up with is a poor guy in complete control of his life. To me, Part Two—follow me—is the much harder thing.
Part One is expensive. Part Two is ruinous.
Part One bankrupts your wallet. Part Two bankrupts your self-determination.
Jesus' followers didn't just stick a 'follower of Jesus' statement on their blog and get on with life. They left their lives behind and started new ones where they were simply, um, followers. We use this word so much we need to pause and meditate on what it means to be a follower of someone else. You go where he goes. You sleep where he sleeps. You eat what he eats. Pitch your rugged individualism off a rugged cliff. And being a follower makes you a pretty weird person. You become an eccentric even within the community of people who are pursuing God. It's one thing to pursue God. Quite another to follow Him. You pursue Him on your own terms. You follow Him on His. Pursuing God is a generally respectable activity. Following earns you sympathetic glances.
And this is the essence of my struggle. Am I really following Jesus? Or am I on my own journey? Does He really lead me, and do I follow wherever His path may lead? Or am I staying within the well-drawn lines of what the current iteration of Christian culture determines to be adequate for a pursuer of God?
Keeps me up at night, frankly.