Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? For when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, waging war, will not first consider whether he, with ten thousand, can contend against one with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation seeking peace” (Luke 14.25-32)
Jesus, beholding the crowds following him, wanting, needing to know who was serious, uttered a harsh, the harshest word: Hate.
This marks the difference between a marketer seeking to attract and retain customers and a messenger, a Messiah calling disciples to learn a new way of life.
As then, so, now, anyone who follows Jesus, who claims the name “Christian” is obliged to count the cost of discipleship.
Jesus is no casuist. He does not impart theoretical rules drawn from past experience to be applied to every new instance of existence. Rather Jesus teaches in the paradoxical language of cosmically-overarching, yet earthbound principles, bidding that we daily take up the cross of discerning what the cost is for us.
Running the risk of universalizing my perspective, if we honestly can’t envision, much less experience any cost of our discipleship, then I suggest that we’re following someone other than Jesus, doing something other than discipleship, and being something other than Christian. And although I dare not, I cannot say what the cost is for anyone else, I can say what it is for me.
Every day, in striving to do good deeds, I attempt to build a shining tower that I cannot finish. Every day, in desiring to fight against the ills and woes of life in this world and within myself, I contemplate war, but without enough army to contend with success.
In a word, I am human. Therefore, even at my best, I am limited in:
Intellect. I don’t know everything (even, at times, it is clear to me, enough!) about life, God, others, or myself, and…
Energy. I don’t have enough strength of arm or stamina of will to accomplish half of what I imagine or intend, and…
Money. I don’t have enough material resource to support agencies and organizations whose daily labor is to promote justice and compassion in arenas far greater than my individual capacity, and…
Integrity. If the risk is great enough, I, in the face of my fears, will consider compromising my values.
My Christian discipleship daily reminds me of my limitations. Therefore, I need Jesus. And I need the community, the church he has called together, granting me the grace of joining with – and learning from – others who daily take up the cross of figuring out the cost for themselves.
© 2021 PRA
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