The Cost of Following Jesus
57As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”
62Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
The Cost of Following Jesus
I’ve been thinking/reading a LOT about the costs of following Jesus. We haven’t done an even semi-adequate job of presenting the costs to people in the mainline Protestant church. Most mainline Protestant churches simply require that potential members attend a class, maybe meet with a pastor who then encourages them to become an usher or greeter or something like that, and then they go on their way. It’s like: Here, we don’t want to scare anyone, so let’s make sure they think this is EASY.
Again, read above. Nothing was easy about following Jesus. He turned crowds away. He didn’t want half-ass followers. You were either following him despite the costs or you weren’t. This isn’t about being inclusive/exclusive. Jesus loved everyone, sure. But is it love to not present the whole truth to people? Is it love to just make things easy? Is that really what the Kingdom and life is all about? Just having it EASY?!
I believe Scripture paints a different picture.
Part of what is so attractive to me in the Emerging movement is that leaders are sick of the consumer/seeker-sensitive approach to Church. For instance, a church in LA called Mosaic has certain membership requirements. You must agree to follow through on four things: Serve in a ministry, tithe regularly, attend worship regularly, and evangelize in another community of people (and join a small group). The pastor of this church said the following: “Every person we’ve ever led to Christ has been HARD. There is nothing easy.” But he also knows that they’ve created REAL followers of Jesus. Reading the passage above and the rest of Luke 8-9 talks about what kind of seed we are. He totally understood that 3 out of 4 people were going to be crappy seed.
My question is this: How do we lay the cards on the table/present the costs to people?
Let’s get over two things: 1, This isn’t legalistic and 2, This isn’t about inclusivity/exclusivity.
Legalism: Just because my brother encouraged me to discipline myself to take extra batting practice, work out hard, and practice to be the best baseball player I could be didn’t make it legalistic. Followers of Jesus have a choice: Discipline, spiritual focus, and serving a great purpose in life or not. Is that really legalistic? One leads to a better life with God, the other doesn’t.
Inclusivity/exclusivity. I’m “inclusive” when it comes to the idea that God wants everyone to be loved and to be saved. God wants the church to live out these inclusive ways. Who are we, sinners ourselves, to exclude someone? However, I’m “exclusive” when it comes to the idea that some people are true believers and others are practical atheists. I mean, the cost of following Jesus is high. Some are crappy seed. Some will be turned off. Some are faking it. And only some really get the costs.
In conclusion, the costs are high. I’ll love the stranger, welcome the seeker, be open to any kind of wayward living, but I will not accept someone who just consumes, coasts, and doesn’t want to endure the cost of following Jesus. When you’re IN, you’re in. When you’re looking and trying, you’re in. When you’re faking, coasting, not understanding the costs, not attempting to live like Jesus, you’re OUT.
May God help us all to understand the costs of following him!