“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18, Mark 10, Matthew 19)
The real promise of Jesus isn’t stuff. If you know this passage you understand that it follows the story of a rich young man who couldn’t give up his wealth to follow Jesus. In the wake of this moment Jesus speaks to the wiles of wealth and the breaking of theology that associated God’s favor and money. His disciples are left astonished, shocked, concerned. It is in this moment that Jesus begins to speak of a rhythm of a new Kingdom, where the first are last and the last are first. Where favor is not dispensed in possessions, but in presence. Where the eternal storyline is much more important than the immediate desire. It is in this place…in the conversations of sacred things that he speaks of leaving.
I’m convinced that leaving is so painful because most of us have only known the corrupt versions of it. We assume people leave because they don’t love us anymore, don’t value us anymore, don’t want us anymore. We’re left to think people leave because the other places have amazing grass and the allure is intoxicating. Leaving makes us think of when Mom and Dad got divorced or our spouse served papers. Leaving makes us think about when friendships have fallen apart and people stop caring. Leaving forces us to the conclusions that we weren’t as valuable as we thought we were and speaks damage over our own identity. Because after all, if we were good enough why would anyone leave?
But I believe that there is a different kind of leaving. A leaving that isn’t really leaving at all, but rather a sending. A sending that Jesus counted among the sacred and dared to invite his people into. A sending that actually seemed worth the cost because in the midst of it a storyline was being woven that those who had eyes to see it could understand what was really happening. That at the other end of this sacred leaving was life…unending life…eternal life.
Jesus’ promise for those who would be willing to leave for the sake of the gospel is a beautiful exchange. Life for life. Material Life for eternal life. He would take what we gave Him and give us back something beyond our wildest dreams. His promise is not simply that you would get back what you’ve put in, but that he would do His Jesus math on it and multiply it beyond our greatest imaginations. For those willing to leave one family, he would give them hundreds. For those willing to leave one home, he would give them hundreds. In the midst of loss, somehow Jesus makes it blessed.
Blessed are those who leave the safety of home for the sake of Jesus because in its place He is going to make hundreds of new homes safe.
Blessed are those who leave the covering of their parents for the sake of Jesus because in their place the uncovered will find shelter.
Blessed are those who leave the strength of brothers and sisters for the sake of Jesus because in their place hundreds will be made strong who knew no family.
Blessed are those who leave the security of jobs for the sake of Jesus because in their wake they will bring true security to those who have falsely put their hope in wealth.
Blessed are those who understand that being sent isn’t really about leaving, but knowing we sit at a family table that has people missing…and the time has come to help them come home. You see the promise of Jesus’ in the midst of those who would be willing to leave is that the very family they are leaving is the very family they are leaving for.
You must understand that I have come a conclusion about life. I sit at a family table, but there are people missing. My family table has open seats where prodigals are supposed to be sitting. My family table has open seats that are reserved for prostitutes, thieves and lepers. My family table has open seats that can only be filled by the homosexual community. My family table has a seat missing for the atheist and con-artist, for the addict and the confused. My family table has seats for the religious that have never known Jesus’ love and for the Jesus lovers that have never known His name. We don’t leave because we want to leave our family, we leave because we have family that must come home.
I now understand that I am the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. But I get to retell the story. Today I have made a new choice; I must go after my younger brother. I must go to the street corners and the dark alleys. I must go to the slops of the pigpen and find Him. I have brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and children that must come home. This is why I leave, because I have family missing. It isn’t only right, but it truly is worth the cost.
But the one being sent isn’t the only recipient of the promise. The multiplication of life in Jesus isn’t merely for the one going, but for those staying. Because inherently in the promise is that in the wake of one being sent is unending life for all.
Blessed are the Moms who watch their sons go to the ends of the earth for their inheritance will be thousands of sons in the life to come.
Blessed are the Dads who watch their daughters make a home for many for their reward will be a heavenly name that stands with Abraham the father of many.
Blessed are the those who are left for theirs is an ache that Jesus promised to fill and now they may finally see that Jesus trusts them to lead in the empty spaces.
Leaving is sacred. And the beauty of this truth is that when it is done right it isn’t really leaving at all. It is a long goodbye knowing that one day we will all sit back down at our family table and have to add chairs. We will have to wait a while to eat because introductions are going to take a while. You may not know this yet, but I have Fathers and Mothers and Brothers and Sisters and Children to introduce you to. I have homes to give you. I have fields that belong to you. I just need a little bit of time to go get them.