I have high hopes for that rich, young, religious ruler. I hope that one day we can have a chat and I can ask a few questions. I wonder how he will respond. Here’s how I hope our conversation will go:

Can I ask you what you were thinking that day? What were you hoping to receive from Jesus? Did his question about why you called him good’ catch you off guard? Was there a point in the conversation where your hopes were raised, only to be suddenly dashed? Why did you walk away? Was it theological confusion? Confusion concerning Israel’s covenant with God and signs of entering the blessings the covenant offered? Or, when Jesus asked you to give away all you possessed, were you just plain scared? Scared that he would ask so much of you when you were just getting acquainted? Were you angry at Jesus? Angry that he would ask you to give away all you possessed, while he seemed perfectly happy to allow other people to keep their possessions? Some people I’ve talked to – scholars included — seem to think that Jesus was tough on you because you thought you were earning something from him – and from God – through your obedience to the Law. I’m not convinced. But it does seem like you were struggling to give up things that were precious to you, things that gave you status in your society, things that made your life comfortable and secure. Am I right? Did you ever change? Did you ever give away your possessions? And if you did, what did you receive in return? Did you ever come back to Jesus and say, I’m sorry. I was scared. I was offended. I want to learn from you. I want to change. I need your help. Teach me how to live.’? I know these are personal questions. I guess I think that in the age to come, in the kingdom you were so eager to enter, we’ll feel comfortable enough, and secure enough, to share such private things.”

My thoughts drift back to Bonhoeffer. If I could sum up his thought in one phrase, it would probably be something like this: The call to discipleship is the call to change.” Jesus is always calling people to change. And change is very difficult. Clearly, Jesus was asking the rich young ruler to change as Jesus invited him to become his disciple; the pattern of apprenticeship to Jesus remains the same for us today. In the young man’s case, his possessions seemed to be the principal roadblock to change. He couldn’t let them go. The very things he thought were bringing him life were strangling him. 

What’s strangling me?” I ask myself. The rich, young man thought things were fine and they were awful. Where am I equally blind, equally self-deceived? Where am I lying about the true state of affairs in my life? Where does Jesus’ spotlight need to shine in me, exposing things I need to take a look at but would rather ignore? Why am I afraid to allow God to flick his divine flash light on to illuminate my heart? Why am I hiding? Why am I hunkering down?

You can catch up with all of Chris’s posts at Conversations with Chris.”