“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left
house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands,
for my sake and for the gospel,
who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time,
houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands,
and in the age to come eternal life.”
Being part of the body of Christ, the true church, entails being intimate with the Living God and living for Him. By definition, it entails not being at odds with Him, and thus with oneself, since believers are indwelt by His Holy Spirit. See Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:25, and Luke 12:52 about divided ‘houses’ or, more graphically, Judges 19:29.
This should be obvious when we think about our own physical bodies, how they are meant to function, and how we are meant to care for them.
Those at odds with their own body are either suffering from a psychological illness (e.g., expressing itself in OCD, self-harm, anorexia, delusions, suicidal tendencies, etc.) or a physical malady (e.g., cancer, AIDS or some other autoimmune disorder — i.e., those characterized by the body attacking itself or allowing itself to be attacked by foreign, microbial forces or rogue cells).
All of these self-oppositional states are highly tenuous — leading to death if not corrected… and life if they are.
So too with the body of Christ, the church.
To make another analogy, one cannot claim to be happily and fruitfully married to someone while simultaneously sleeping with the hit-man who is working to trick, tie up, brutalize, rob and kill their spouse (or, even more perversely, with one who has already done so).
In other words, being part of the body of Christ entails not having an intimate relationship with those forces which are opposed to Him, namely the world system, run by Satan. (Whether one knows it or not, we are all being co-opted in a spiritual war. As much as we have become accustomed to it, in our entertainment-driven culture, there is no special, above-it-all third position of detached, neutral observer. There is no supra-spiritual position of rationality as if one were merely watching and commenting on the real action on television or in the news headlines.)
It may sound odd to put it this way, but because of our sinful nature, we are all born in relationship with Satan, the ultimate rebel. And he utterly despises God. He seldom reveals the true depths of his animosity, since to do so would undermine his main purpose of leading worshipers of YHWH to worship him via imitation, distraction and dilution, setting us at odds with ourselves like one of the deadly physical or psychological maladies listed above.
Jesus advises those who would wish to follow him that they will be called to walk away from their attachments to Satan’s world system and those allied to him through their sin-nature attachments to it in much the same way that a doctor might tell a patient they will be separated from their illness. In doing so, Jesus signals that the entire world, including his disciples at the time, still had such attachments… and that we do too. (The fact that he tells his “indignant” (i.e., still clueless and unbelieving) disciples in Matthew 26:11 that “YOU always have the poor with you,” then corrects this, in the church, in Acts 4 — “There was not a needy person among THEM” — should give us a clue as to how impossible it is for any of us to walk away from our sin under our own power, without the Holy Spirit.)
It is implied (or may at least be inferred, from experience) that while Jesus’ call is absolute in spiritual terms, it transpires in differing ways and on differing timetables for different individuals in the physical sense. I.e., it should not be inferred that Jesus is out to break up marriages, leave orphaned children, abandon and dishonor parents and leave individuals without the support and reassurance siblings can often provide. In fact, precisely the opposite. Jesus is proposing a new world order in which all of those relations are set right, in and through his body. This transpires both in the physical sense, of his suffering and dying, in our place, on the cross, as the unique man-God, and in the spiritual sense of the church, where these inter-human relations are re-cast in the light of His grace.
MARK 10:29-30 (abbreviated and annotated):
“No one who has left [the 'stuff' of the world] for [Jesus] and for the gospel… will not receive a hundredfold [of the same 'stuff', but cleansed of sin] now in this time… with persecutions.”
In the Mark passage, Jesus is describing the true church — the body of Christ. In it, one gets new brothers and sisters, new parents (spiritual mentors) and the free use of lands and belongings on a scale far greater than one could amass on one’s own under the world system. Yet all of this takes place in the context of the church of being the body of Christ in the world (but not of it) and therefore by definition being sharply at odds with and hated by the world. I.e., “with persecutions“. Let me be more concrete for a moment, just to illustrate.
A young man from Taiwan, only converted to Christ this past February (praise God!!!), has been visiting Boston this month before he starts medical school back home later this summer. I have gotten to know him a bit because he has been attending our church while he is here. None of his family are believers. There is no formal ‘program’ behind his presence with us — just folks in the body of Christ who have made introductions and helped him out in various ways while he’s so far from home. (What price, in dollars, could one put on that?) Later this week I’m picking him up and taking him to see some historical sites. Why? Because he’s my brother in Christ.
I lost my blood brother but, on the one-year anniversary of his death, God gave me specific, direct assurance that He would “give back [to me] more than [I had] lost”. He has already kept that promise, at least a hundred-fold.
I was blessed with a direct reminder (probably because I was such a morose knucklehead and needed it badly). Yet the same promise is universal (for believers) and wholly scriptural. Most of you can tell similar stories.
What persecutions are we going to suffer for a pleasant afternoon of Christian fellowship? I don’t know yet. I do know however, that the world system looks askance at that kind of sacrifice of time for a stranger, making us feel somehow out-of-synch if we are not resolutely going about the business of amassing as much wealth as possible to purchase a worldly illusion of security and fellowship. There is a kind of psychological persecution — a subtle distancing and estrangement — which can be just as troubling as the physical kind if we let it get to us.
A passage in Acts succinctly illustrates what Jesus was talking about:
ACTS 4:27-35 – “…for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
I.e., many MANY blessings and ‘real’ relationships but… “with persecutions” (Mark 10:30)
Why does the Western church, e.g., the American one, lack the kind of boldness, grace and power which the church universal had at its inception and still has, in pockets, mostly overseas? Because it lacks conviction. It lacks the gut-level certainty required to act in a certain way, despite opposition, without hesitation. It lacks the Holy Spirit. (I’m speaking in broad terms, and not without personal conviction for my lack of conviction. Obviously some churches do still have much more of the Spirit than most, and thus these manifestations of power as well.)
To put it more bluntly, the church is (i.e., we are) are too often content to sleep with the enemy, hedging our bets, holding out for some kind of truce or compromise. What spouse would put up with that?
Honey, I’d like to introduce you to my lover-on-the-side. He works for the mob. I took out a contract on you and he’s the guy who’s going to carry it out. Why don’t you two work something out so I can go on consorting with both of you, OK?
In addition to making no sense on its face (i.e., identifying it as confusion — and thus of the enemy), we can ask: Who would put up with that? Well… a God with extreme depths of grace, rooted and grounded in love… a long-suffering God who would wish none to perish. Yet still… His long-suffering is not forever-suffering.
Such a self-oppositional spiritual state, in the church, or in an individual, is highly tenuous. Like its physical analogues (see above), it invariably leads to death if not corrected…
…and Life if it is.
MARK 10:30 –
and in the age to come eternal life.”