After Jesus calls the disciples to the near-impossibility of leaving behind their families (Jesus says they should hate their families, just to let the toughness sink in), Luke’s Gospel seems to make an abrupt turn. The Pharisees point out that the people who Jesus is hanging out with aren’t rigorous at all in their faith or personal behavior. In fact, they’re so unrigorous that the Pharisees feel perfectly justified in calling them sinners. Jesus responds by flipping the script on what it takes to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. One doesn’t have to have perfectly given up power, control, identity, family, home, or possessions. One only has to begin the long process of conversion that might, in the end and with the help of grace, make one capable of giving up those things.
This is the second great spiritual theme of Luke’s Gospel – conversion and repentance. Again and again in my life, I find myself falling into the same errors and repenting for the same things. Mostly, I get on my high horse and convince myself that I can become a disciple of Jesus – that I can achieve a saintlike level of calmness and love and feel my heart swell with God’s goodness at every moment, because I have a profound sense of God’s divinity dwelling inside of me. I tell myself these things, and try to be meek, mild, and at peace at the same time, and then I fail miserably at achieving or being any of these things. Distraught, I look with disgust at my own hubris and feel that I’m a worm and no man. And then something reminds me of God’s abundant grace, and I remember humility, and the truth that I can’t do anything, anything at all, without grace.
As I said, I do this again and again and again, an endless cycle of conversion and repentance, and I can only hope that this cycle is wearing a groove in my soul. That, like a river, it’s slowly eroding the cliff sides of my ego and insecurities. I hope that there is joy in heaven every time that I repent. Still, I’d still rather not go through this cycle time and again. But God is always seeking after me when I go wandering in this way.