“Anyone who intends to come with me must let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat – I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good is it to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” Luke 9:23-25 (The Message)
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Luke 9:23-25
Verses 23-25 are a perfect summary of what Jesus meant by being His disciple and wearing His yoke. There is a strict order to be followed: Jesus – leader; disciple – follower. These two positions are not interchangeable. His leadership teaches us everything about being human and being part of the kingdom of God. Suffering is an inevitable part of following Jesus because being a disciple brings us into conflict with God’s enemy, the devil.
Because we are members of humanity, we experience the suffering that is the lot of all humanity; some of it is the result of being human and some of it is self-inflicted, the consequences of poor choices and bad judgments. But there is another aspect to suffering that the followers of Jesus can choose to avoid, which comes from the world’s hatred and rejection of His followers. God’s people suffer because of discrimination or legislation where religious systems and governments have joined together to get rid of Jesus’ followers. It happened in the apostles’ day from the Roman government and it happens today wherever false religions are in control of countries, including the church of Rome which teaches false doctrines.
Jesus insisted, “If you want to follow me, let me lead. I’ll show you how to embrace suffering, entrusting yourself to me as I entrusted myself to Him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23b)”. It may mean losing your life to find it, as Jesus did.
Some may be called to give their lives in loyalty to Jesus, but most are called to deny themselves to pour their lives out for the sake of others. This is a strange paradox, like the many paradoxes of the kingdom of God for example, if you want to live, you must die; if you live for yourself, you will die. The life of God is only ever fully experienced through the generosity of sacrificial service. The love, joy and peace of God is only fully experienced when we forget ourselves and take care of the needs of other people. These are the fruit of a life that is led by the Spirit and to be led by the Spirit is to live the way Jesus lived, loving, serving, and giving His life for others.
The problem, when we want to retaliate instead of trusting God when people treat us badly, is that we become part of evil instead of being part of Jesus, who broke the power of evil by dying and rising again. Jesus’ way is the only way to show the world how great God’s power really is.