When I started following Jesus, I divorced my life plans and abandoned everything I knew. I ditched all my friends at the time (I still miss them). I quit pursuing the marching percussion arts (I miss playing drums). I immersed myself in the Bible and surrounded myself with new friends who were followers of Christ. I was single at the time, so I didn’t have a wife to leave behind, neither did I have any children.
While there was pain in this time, there was also newfound comfort. The new friends I made were great! I even met my wife around this time too! That’s a brief overview of my experience, but I don’t think the metaphorical comparison is what Jesus meant when he made this statement:
“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.
– Luke 18:29-30 (NLT)
Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”
– Mark 10:29–31 (NLT)
On the surface, Jesus seems to be contradicting Himself. He’s made mention that divorce is not God’s plan, yet, He appears to be saying that those who divorce their spouse for “God’s Kingdom” will be repaid. Why is it that I need to leave my wife, get a divorce, or just abandon her (or another object of love), to be effective in God’s kingdom? The following list of abandonment doesn’t sound very uplifting or desirable:
- A wife and husband divorced.
- A fatherless or motherless child.
- Rejected parents and family ties.
What’s going on? What’s the point Jesus is trying to teach?
Servanthood. Sacrifice. Suffering. Selflessness.
On some level, all of these are required to follow Jesus. Some of us will not be required to forsake our spouse or our family, but some of us will. Some of our families will remain indifferent to the love of God; when that happens we need to prioritize pleasing Christ over pleasing our families. Some of us will not be required to give up our houses and standard of living, but some of us will. God will show us the sacrifices required of us to grow more and more into the person of Jesus.
Divorce and Abandonment for the Sake of the Kingdom of God
The HCSB Study Bible notes, “to leave wife and children means itinerant ministry, not divorce or abandonment of domestic responsibilities.” Jesus is teaching on a scale of intensity. While some of us may not be required to decide between allegiance to people or things for the sake of God’s Kingdom, most of us will have to decide between taking a risk and following God or remaining comfortable in the life we used to live.
For example, some of us may need to commit to joining a life group at a local church to talk about the Bible and study it together with others. Sometimes, this may look like a Men’s or Women’s group, where we leave our family each week for a time and choose to dedicate a portion of time towards Christ. Other times, we may be presented with something that God speaks clearly to us, but has not revealed to our family. While this may be something that we commit to leaving the safety of our family for a season, it isn’t necessarily an abandonment. Other times we may need to take a risk and give the money to the person we get a sense from God that needs some help.
I’m not sure what it is that you need to divorce or abandon for the sake of the kingdom of God. It may be money, it may be old friends, it may be comfort, it may be an overcommitment to work, it may be fear – whatever it is, may you have the strength from the Spirit of God to go all in with following Jesus. May you discover servanthood, sacrifice, suffering, and selflessness as your sell out to follow Jesus.