Since I became a member of the Hare Krishna movement, I have come under attack of the accusations of members of the Protestant movement, a sect of Christianity. Several of these accusations deal with the concept of renunciation, or giving up material things for a higher purpose. The Hare Krishnas have been accused of forcing the congregation to sell all personal property, leave the nonbelieving family, and wear plain cloth. Although neither the scripture we follow, the Vedas, nor our priests state that we must give up our possessions and family life. The Christian scripture, the Bible, does.
I grew up in a Christian home. My Parents were both "born again," we attended church regularly. Even in my early childhood, I wondered, "if we Christians were supposed to be so apart from this world and its pleasures, why do we live like every other all-American family?" This was a problem that plagued me for years. Why do so many "born again" Christian families live like any other family? Why do they allow their children to watch televisions shows that so blatantly contradict what even their preachers and ministers are teaching, let alone what their bible teaches? Why don't the followers of Lord Jesus Christ give up these temporary material objects, and even their families, to devote their time totally to serving
What if a minister of a conservative Christian church chose to leave all of his material things, his car, television, pay check, and hose? Not only that, but he chose to leave his children [after they're grown, his wife and even the family dog so he could spend all of his time living as a monk, studying the scriptures. He would be looked down upon by those who cannot make the commitment to God that he made.
My family would often "skip" church on Sundays to go on camping trips, vacations, and to visit relatives. This wasn't an uncommon practice for any family attending. Yes, once again, God came in a far second to the desires of the self. Is He really less important than our personal aspirations?
If I were to ask a fundamentalist that question, I would get the reply: "We cannot be saved by works like attending church and constantly praying, we must accept Jesus into our hearts, we are saved by grace, not by works." And to that I would respond: "Matthew 7:21- Not everyone who says to me "Lord, Lord" will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven,' and I Thessalonians 5:17- "pray without ceasing'."
But still, so many Christians want to live in and of this material world. They are so attached to their TV shows, sporting events, houses, and families. But if it is believed that by not following the scriptures and the teachings of Lord Jesus Christ one is sinning, then the all-American, born again Christians are constantly living in sin.
How is this?
"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world comes not from the Father, but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (I John 2:15-17)
Isn't this verse saying that if one truly loves God, love for any material worldly thing is impossible?
"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matt. 19:21)
Here, Christ states that perfection is attainable by giving up all possessions and following him. Not only that, but one cannot follow Christ (be a Christian) unless these possessions are given up.
With that past verse (Matt. 19:21) many could argue that Christ does not say, "give up all possessions." They would be right. He does not say it in that verse. He says it in this verse:
"…any of you who does not give everything he has, cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:33)
So we can clearly see that by giving up these material possessions we can become followers of God, not only followers on Earth, but followers in the Kingdom of God. But should we really leave our families and loved ones to follow this teaching?
"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." (Matt. 19:29)
This sounds like leaving family is an added bonus. Christ speaks of its reward here. So even if it is not demanded why would one turn down eternal life with God and 100 times what he left behind?
Many Christians are avid "family values" supporters. Often they refer to Christ as the "Prince of Peace." Many times I have heard that Christ's peace keeps their family together. But in Matthew 10:34-37 Christ personally puts an end to this fallacy.
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies will be the members of his own household." (Matt. 10:34-37)
So Christ was not the bringer of peace or the installer of family values. Many view him as compassionate, but much the opposite can be believed from the commandment in Luke 14:26-27.
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters -- yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26-27)
This is a powerful verse spoken by Christ to those who desired to follow him. But to ignore its power, many claim that Christ is merely speaking to his twelve chosen, even though in the verse prior to this, it states that large crowds were following Jesus. So here it is taught that we must take up the renounced life to attain the Kingdom of God.
And in closing, as a reminder, I think it should be said that Christ spoke all the verses used as support (with the exception of I John 2:15-17). These are the commandments of Lord Jesus Christ. John 14:15 states, If you love me [Jesus], you will obey what I command."