The Struggle to Not Look Back

The Struggle to Not Look Back December 20, 2023

The Struggle to Not Look Back

Lucian Petrean | 05.07.2020 | pexels

‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ Luke 9.62, NRSV

I’m aware of the story of Orpheus, a tragedy, a Classical Greek tale. Apparently there are a couple versions. It is tragic because Orpheus looks back.

Honestly, the tale is easier to figure out than the poetry of Sara Bareilles… and she is a poet. She does things with her words few people are capable of.

Sara Bareilles

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Sara recasts the epic tale in a modern light with a twist. I have no ulterior motive for speaking of the story of Orpheus, or of sharing the song. I certainly don’t want the story and song to outshine the saying of Christ. However, while listening to the song today, I thought of the words of our Lord about the struggle to not look back.

Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ Luke 9.62

Basil the Great offers timeless commentary on this verse. Basil is one of the Cappadocian Fathers.

A person who wishes to become the Lord’s disciple must repudiate a human obligation, however honorable it may appear, if it slows us ever so slightly in giving the wholehearted obedience we owe to God.[1]

Cyprian compares this Scripture, not to Orpheus, but to another similar Scripture where Jesus mentions Lot’s wife.

He says, “No one, having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Again he says, “And let him who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife.”[2]

The Struggle to Not Look Back

The struggle of the plowman would be that if/when he looks back, he can no longer look forward to plow a straight line. If he would look back, then his harvest would suffer the effects.

The struggle of Orpheus is that he turns in ecstasy to share the beauty of the sun with his lady, and she is now no longer there.

In the song by Sara Bareilles, Sara takes the role of the woman encouraging her man not to look back. She just encourages him to know she is there with him.

The struggle of Lot’s wife is that the angels warn his family not to look back. Yet Lot’s wife looks back longingly, and becomes a pillar of salt.

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  1. Basil the Great, Concerning Baptism I.1
  2. Cyprian, Exhortation to Martyrdom V.XIII.7; see also Luke 17.31-32

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