I never stop being amazed at the tangible wisdom of the Bible.
First, let me frame the discussion. Just north of me, in New Martinsville, we have a Napa, an Advance Auto, and an Auto Zone, all within a handful of blocks of each other. This winter, O'Reilly Auto Parts started laying the foundation of a new store less than one-half mile from the Advance/Auto Zone/Napa trio. By mid-March, O'Reilly had removed the old structure, graded the hillside for a flat parking lot, channeled drainage, and delivered gravel for the base foundation. Now approaching June, the worksite remains roped off with wild weeds and overgrowth around piles of gravel and unfinished drainage pipes. Everyone who drives by jokes that O'Reilly must have messed up their paperwork or that someone else must be delaying progress.
"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, 'This person began to build and wasn't able to finish.' Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won't he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples." (Luke 14:28-33, NIV)
Jesus very clearly paid the price of salvation for all of us, but that does not mean there is no cost to being a Christian. Some religions train followers that good deeds and "works" are the price of maintaining their ticket into heaven. Some teach that a single oath, regardless of whether taken at the age of 6 or 60, is sufficient for entry, while still others preach a continuing work of holiness through sanctification, starting with the first act of belief and finishing with the final act of Entire Sanctification, is the path to trod en route to heaven.
But what is the true cost of being a believer?
In the interest of full disclosure, I grew up the son of a Pentecostal preacher and am currently a card carrying member of the Paden City WV Church of the Nazarene under the tutelage of one very humble and clearly-spoken Rev. Patrick McGue II. Like John the Baptist shining the light of God on man's sin before Christ's atoning sacrifice, my dad preached fire and brimstone in the 1970's and 1980's. I now highlight Jesus' sacrifice and gracious love. Either way, the cost of being a Christian is the same.
Jesus said it himself in Luke chapter 14, verses 26 and 27. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Of course, Jesus wasn't literally calling for us to forsake the love of our natural-born parents and siblings or that of our spouse and children. Rather, He said the cost of being a believer is the willingness to leave everyone and everything behind, everything that gives us worldly pleasure or comfort, in exchange for following His teachings. By telling us to "carry [our] cross" Jesus reminds us that the cost of following Him must be paid daily in the denial of unholy pleasures and avoidance of sins and anything that might cause another to sin. He said it in Matthew chapter 6, as part of what we call "The Lord's Prayer." We must fight sin daily and actively guard our hearts, wherein the Lord's Kingdom resides.
But what does that mean to us today? In a world where pornography is so pervasive in the movies, on billboards, and via the Internet, or where foul language is as acceptable at the boardroom table as the red power tie, or where "garbage rolls downhill" is the mantra of the incompetent manager who marches yet another hard working serf out the door, what is the real cost of discipleship in today's world?
Christian, that cost comes when your co-workers know your beliefs, because your every move will be circumspect. Every day, they watch more for you to do something "unchristian-like" than root for your success. That cost comes when you get up alone on a Sunday morning and attend church while the rest of your family sleeps. That "religion stuff" is for you, not them. That cost comes when everybody is talking about the surprise ending at King's Landing, but you turned the channel when the bedroom scene started. That cost comes when, instead of flipping the bird at the trucker driving left of center, you pray for his safe return home and the safety of everyone on the road behind you. That cost comes when you are tired at the end of the day, yet you say a prayer before going to bed, and when you have a long list of items to get done, yet you take the time to read scripture and pray to start your day.
So what is the true cost of being a disciple? Jesus was very clear, and He cautions us to count it before making that decision. Why? Because if we do it right, it won't cost us anything.
It'll cost us everything.
– Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.