Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Calculating the Cost

Wednesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time
November 3, 2010

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-33)

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.
(from The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer as quoted in Crazy Love by Francis Chan)

One of my friends told me about a book his Sunday School class is reading, Crazy Love, by Francis Chan, an evangelical pastor from California. The title intrigued me, so I got a copy and read it last week. As I was studying our Gospel reading for today, I thought back to that book several times. Chan writes about the crazy, persistent, unfathomable love God has for each of us and what we frequently give in return - half-baked, pitiful attempts at discipleship. In his words, many of us are lukewarm Christians. “Lukewarm people say they love Jesus, and He is, indeed, a part of their lives. But only a part. They give Him a section of their time, their money, and their thoughts, but He isn’t allowed to control their lives.” (Crazy Love, p. 72)

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus pretty much tells the crowd that lukewarm won’t cut it. If we want to be disciples, here are the things we will have to do: First, he says, we have to hate our families and even our own lives! Now the Lord doesn’t literally mean that we should turn our backs on our families. He does mean, however, that we should put him before anything and everything else, including our families and ourselves, and give up whatever other earthly attachments come between us and him.

Second, he says we shouldn’t think the way of discipleship is an easy path. We can’t get to the Resurrection or eternal life by any other route than Calvary and the cross. There are no detours for disciples. Along the way, if we follow Christ, we will be asked to carry some cross(es).

Last, but not least, Jesus says we have to renounce our possessions.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling more and more lukewarm as I realize the enormity of Jesus’ words. Give up my earthly attachments? I’ve got some pretty strong ties to things of this life that wouldn’t be easy to sever. Carry a cross? It might be too heavy. Maybe I could just carry it part of the way. Renounce my possessions? When I actually start thinking about giving it all away, I find I’m pretty fond of my stuff.

So, if we think we might want to be disciples, Jesus says to sit down and calculate the cost before we commit ourselves. Look around. All the things that warm our hearts – our friends, our social lives, our paychecks, our nice houses, our closets full of trendy clothes, our laptops, our favorite TV shows, etc. – might have to go. Certainly, they’ll have to take a back seat to our faith in the Lord. And if we’re really committed to Christ, there will be those who won’t like our allegiance. We might be persecuted. We might have to carry a cross.

The paradox is that once we give up everything, we receive everything in Christ. When I think about that crazy, inestimable love God has for us and all that he promises us through faith in his Son, it’s a no-brainer. That is, until I reach into my closet to give the first thing away…

Take a few minutes to reflect on the things of this world and how firm a grip they have on you. What are you clinging to? What are you willing to give up? Start by giving away just one thing this week that’s standing between you and Christ.