It is impossible to obey any commandment of Jesus unless we first hate our lives.
Jesus fulfilled a cardinal principle of the kingdom of God by laying down his life at the cross of Calvary and then promptly rising from the dead. He demonstrated conclusively that: “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33).
Losing life to gain life
Our love of life is the foundation of all sin. Therefore, to repent of sin is to repent of the love of life. Jesus says: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). But in order to gain the life Jesus gives, we must first relinquish the life we already have.
Jesus says: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). However, Jesus’ commandments are far more stringent than those of Moses. While Moses says we must not kill; Jesus says we should not even be angry (Matthew 5:21-22). While Moses says we must not commit adultery; Jesus says we must not even look lustfully at the opposite sex (Matthew 5:28). While Moses prescribes giving an eye for an eye; Jesus says we should not resist evil (Matthew 5:39). While Moses says we must love our neighbour; Jesus says we must even love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44).
Unlike those of Moses, it is impossible to obey any commandment of Jesus unless we first hate our lives.
Take, for example, Jesus’ commandment to love our enemies. How can a man love an enemy that has badly affected his life if he loves his life? But if he hates his life, he is not bothered by whatever the enemy does. Jesus says a divorced man should not re-marry otherwise he will commit adultery. But how can we obey this commandment if we are in an unhappy marriage and feel we have one life to live? Unless we hate our life, we will try to save it by seeking a new life with a new marriage partner.
Christians simply ignore Jesus’ commandments; convinced they are impossible to obey. But Jesus asks: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Christians are those who call Jesus Lord but do what pastors say. That is the reason why we are not Christ-like. We don’t live the true message of the cross which is to hate our lives in this world and lay them down. Instead, our pastors insist it is the prerogative of Christians to gain this good-for-nothing world. This is the great deception of the “prosperity gospel;” the bait whereby we pastors now fill our pews and coffers.
Meaning of the cross
Two thieves were crucified with Jesus. One sought to save his life and thereby lost it. He said to Jesus: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). The other, however, was no longer concerned about saving his life, but was now interested in gaining the kingdom of God. He said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Because he did not try to save his life, Jesus said to him: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Hating life is not about becoming martyrs. Martyrs are lovers of life who die for earthly causes. Hating life is about disregarding this life and being heaven-focused.
Jesus did not seek earthly glory. He did not accept any praise or honour from men (John 5:41). He lived a modest life and did not accumulate earthly treasure. He did not fight for his rights. Neither did he retaliate for wrongs done to him. Instead, he turned the other cheek and prayed for the forgiveness of his assailants. He did not fear death or try to defend and safeguard his life.
If only Christians would endeavour to follow Jesus’ pattern by laying down our lives, we would be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Our righteousness would be on display the world over. We would be distinguished as people of integrity who don’t fight; who are not abusive; and who are not self-seeking. We would be faithful in marriage, in business and at work. We would bring so much honour and glory to God.
But instead, we claim Jesus has taken away our sins, which gives us little further incentive to repent of sin and live according to Jesus’ precepts. We go to church, we read the bible, we fast and we pray. Nevertheless, we continue in sin because our love of life is unabated.
Laying down our lives is the narrow gate and the hard way that leads to life. No wonder, very few find it.