This seems so extreme, especially for non-Christians. It smacks of martyrdom, the do-or-die call of fanatical religions. Even for believers, it suggests the lofty calling of a precious few, men like Bonhoeffer, who left a comfortable teaching position in America to return to Germany during WWII. Organizing against the Nazis, he was arrested and executed at Flossenburg concentration camp. His last words were, “This is the end – for me the beginning of life.”
There’s no doubt Jesus demanded much of his disciples. He asked them to leave home, vocation, and family to follow him. Like Bonhoeffer, their devotion led all of them except John to violent deaths.
This is not our path. Most of us live comfortable existences. If we ascribe to a faith system at all, it is usually to augment our comfort, not to cause sacrifice.
Yet I believe one saying of Jesus, if practiced by people of ANY worldview, can cause an inner miracle. Matthew 16:25 – Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
Think of this loss not in terms of physical death, but the death of the Ego. Whoever dies to false ego will find new life and freedom beyond anything they imagined.
Most often we define Ego as the inflated self-importance of egotism. This is part of the equation. But ego encompasses so much more. Here’s a quote from Ivan Hoffman.
Ego is that which separates our hearts from Eternity, from God. It is our inner voice, what I refer to as “the watcher,” the constant noise inside our heads that, out of fear, keeps us from simply being, from trusting enough to let go and stop watching ourselves. It is this watcher, this censor, which creates the sense that we need to control things, for we feel that if we were just to Be, things would not come out the way we want them to. Ego is the veil through which we see the universe.
Jesus prescribed humility and self-emptying not to cause pain, but to help us dissolve our veils and see what he called the Kingdom of Heaven. So many aspects of Ego get in our way: cultural indoctrination, religion, a need to be noticed, fears about the future, regrets about the past, comparison of ourselves to others. I could go on, but you get the idea.
What part of this inner chatter can we let go of today, allowing us to more fully experience the presence of God’s love?
Late one night, speaking to Nicodemus, Jesus said something beautifully enticing, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
Translation: as we let go of false ego and surrender to Spirit, we become as free as the wind!