Let’s start with the easy one. From the book of Wisdom we have a wonderful prayer. It comes from King Solomon. Born the illegitimate son of King David and Bathsheba, he does not know that God spared King David from a horrible life and a ruined kingdom. God said “I will not put the hardship upon you David and your Kingdom, but on your following Generations upon Generations.”
So when Solomon becomes King and God asks him what he wants to be a great King, he does not ask for wealth and power and long life, but asks simply for understanding and discernment to lead his nation and people.
He seeks wisdom and recognizes who God really is. It is a road map to success for a king in following God. He was unable to do it. He could not change. He multiplied his wealth, personal stature, wives, 700 royal wives and 300 concubines, and just when nobody could think it could get worse, he started building altars to the pagan Gods throughout the Kingdom. The lesson: He asked for something in prayer. Without change, wisdom helps us only if we use it.
The second lesson is a little more difficult because it is personal: that of the trio: St. Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus: Paul has taken the runaway slave, who could have been put to death for running away, and he baptizes him.
In the shortest letter in the Bible; 335 words or only 25 verses, Paul is asking for great change in the life and heart of Philemon. He has every right to punish his slave, and Paul who has hidden him. That’s one of the options. The other is to change. Relationships are hard, but Paul’s example in the letter to Philemon prompts us to consider appealing to others in love rather than desperation, anger, or haste.
Imagine if we appealed to one another and made requests with a clean conscious and pure heart out of love. Likely, we would see life-giving changes rather than hurt feelings and strained relationships.
And now the hard one…Luke. Travelling to Jerusalem, Jesus is followed by hundreds, not out of loyalty to him, but after experiencing all the wonderful things that have happened. Yet, they seemed to have missed the part about suffering and hardship. Would they really be following Jesus into Jerusalem if they remembered all he said about the Cross?
He said it is going to cost you dearly if you want to go all the way. You cannot be my disciples if… He says it three times. In the concept of “hating” your family… who wants to do that? Whoever does not carry the cross… who wants to do that? Renouncing all your possessions…who wants to do that? All of that takes great change. “Hate” in this case simply means your family will question if your loyalty is to them or to Christ. Not like we think of hate. Love in this case means will you be loyal to Christ or your family. Again, it is the cost of change… what will you do to follow Christ?
The Gospel of Luke also gives us what are called “the marks” of a disciple. Not hating or loving, but changing. Asking for understanding and discernment to lead other people in the world as did Solomon. Asking for radical change in one’s lifestyle and culture as did Paul to Philemon, and Jesus asking us to give up the things that are most precious.
But other ways to be a disciple in Luke are: a transformed heart, a transformed mind, transformed affections, transformed will, transformed relationships, transformed purpose, transformed heart, transformed mind.
Jesus has not only transformed the way of life for us to be disciples, He has revolutionized our reason for living. Disciples live—and die—to share the gospel of Christ, to announce the life of Christ, to teach the Word of Christ, and to serve the world for Christ by praying for, giving to, and going to people around them and peoples around the world for the sake of God’s fame.
If Solomon had changed we know that Israel would have been a different place, if Philemon had NOT changed, we would be a different type of Christian, and if we are willing to transform ourselves there is no doubt that even through us, the world would be a better place after all.