Discipleship – At What Cost?

What do you find hard to let go of?

What sort of things make it hard for you to be a disciple?

In today’s selection from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus laid out three “trip wires” for discipleship: attachment to family, the hard consequences of discipleship, and attachment to possessions. All three have a caveat. If someone cannot detach from family or possessions, if someone cannot live out the consequences of Christian life, he or she “is not able to be my disciple”

Attachment to family came first. For, place in family defined place in society. Jesus did not condemn society or the clan system that built it. He simply used a Semitic idiom of extreme language to make his point. When he said “hate,” Jesus was not talking about emotional revulsion and physical distance. He was talking about spiritual detachment, the ability to put God first (before relationship or self-interest). Indeed, spiritual detachment requires one to die to self-interest and let God be Lord of one’s life. Without such detachment, one does not have the ability to truly follow Jesus.

Next, Jesus spoke of carrying one’s cross. We sometimes reduce the meaning of this phrase to our personal struggles. For early Christians, however, this phrase had a far more literal meaning. As Jesus went to the cross, his followers could taste death for their devotion to the Master. Jesus, then, told his audience they must accept that palpable danger. If they did not, they did not have the ability to be a true disciple.

Third, Jesus turned again to the notion of attachment. This time, he addressed the subject of possessions with two parables. The first parable involved a farmer constructing a silo (i.e., a “tower”). Without the money, why should a farmer rush to build a silo that will stand only half-finished? If that happened, the farmer would look like a fool.

The second parable spoke of a king planning strategy against a belligerent opponent. Can the king win the battle against an army twice the size of his own? Or should he sue for peace?  In either case, the message of Jesus rang out clearly. Stop! Think long and hard about Christian discipleship before a decision is made. Divided priorities drain the ability of the person to be a disciple.

We all have possessions, relationships, or ideals we guard zealously. Like Jesus’ challenge to his audience, he asks us if we can stand back and view them in the bigger picture. Before we grab these things, people, or causes and hold them close, can we ask God how important they are and what priority we give them? Can we look to God first and put everything else second?