Job Description: Calculate The Cost This week’s Gospel from Luke takes toughness through the roof. On the face of it, the teaching here seems utterly offensive. Hate your family? Take up a crucifix and follow Jesus? Give up all your possessions? And if you don’t do these things, you cannot be a disciple of Jesus? What kind of cult leader is this Jesus guy? That’s one possible response — to reject the offense and the offender. Another is to say that Jesus didn’t really mean what he seems to have said at all. He meant something more like “love me more than anything” and “try your best” and “don’t focus on things.” This response (and it is very common in preaching and commentaries) might be called evading the offense. However, it is also evading Jesus. A third approach is to impose an ethic of balance or tension. We have to balance our love for Jesus with our love for our family. We have to live with the tension of the faithfulness to God on the one hand and duty to others on the other, being sure not to go too far in either direction, lest we become completely faithless (duty to others alone) or cause ourselves foolish harm (the cross). We need to be prudent with our possessions, giving out of overflow, perhaps, but certainly not giving it all. This is a way of completely ignoring both the offense and the offender. Jesus never once, anywhere in Scripture, calls us to live in balance or tension. Greek philosophers have done so. Jesus does not. He calls us to follow him. The qualifications Jesus puts forth for being his disciples were and are offensive and radical. And they are his conditions as he considers whom he will trust as disciples. They are not ours as we choose whether we want to follow such a demanding master. Ours as disciples is not to “dumb down” his demands, but to accept the radicality of his challenge, and, if we want him to choose us as part of his construction crew to expect to live into them. The radical call suggests that we grow into it. As we make choices to live out our discipleship, we enter more deeply into its meaning and demands. Our ongoing baptismal yes is our ongoing self-emptying stance of discipleship. Jesus is constantly inviting us to listen to him. We spend our whole lives bringing our fullest attention to what he is saying. God will sustain us. God never goes back on the divine promise to give new Life to those who are faithful.