There is a paradox involved in serving Jesus. We know we are saved by grace and that the eternal life we receive from God is nothing but a gift from him. At the same time, Jesus makes it very clear that discipleship is truly costly. This is a cost we all need to count.
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
First some clarification of that love/hate thing. Those words, love and hate, were used in that culture at that time as comparative terms, not necessarily opposites. Matthew makes this clearer than Luke, in Matthew 10:37-38.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
But the point Jesus makes is still stark. Our love of God and determination to follow Jesus must be our highest affections. No person or thing, not even our own lives, can stand in the way of our commitment to Christ. Nothing can be held as superior to him.
These are serious words and must be taken as seriously as they are meant. Jesus encourages us to count the cost. Are we ready to pay this price? Can we finish building the tower? Are we ready to go to war? Remember, we need to renounce all that we have.
Of course the most faithful, fully devoted discipleship worth any price we might pay. Does t bring tension into some relationships? It’s worth it. Do we even lose one or more of those relationships as result of following Christ? Will it affect us materially, in the realm of our career goals, wealth or possessions? Probably so, according to Jesus, to all of the above questions. Still, it’s worth it.
Paul served Jesus a long time and endured far more than most in exchange. Let’s remember the conclusions of his thorough assessment in 2 Corinthians 4:17. No matter what we face as we follow Jesus, it is nearly nothing. The glory that awaits us is better to an absurd extreme.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
We need to count the cost of discipleship, but of course this will only determine for us that it’s worth it in the end.