What it MUST cost us to follow Christ
Luke 9: 51-62
So, what does it cost to be a Christ Follower: A Christian? I remember years ago – as we were leaving SA to come to Canada – a friend thanked me! ‘…thank you that there was no fine print – never any fine print! No catch!’ And in one sense that’s absolutely correct – it is all out there – pure grace, purely given! Done! For everyone and all creation! There is nothing more that we have to do to earn ANYTHING more from God. I think of beautiful scripture texts like: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in (your) weakness.[i] …we all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.[ii] There is nothing in all creation that can separate us now from the love of God.[iii]
But as so often happens with our faith there are those other passages that seem to be saying just the opposite – that it will cost us everything to be Christ-Followers.
‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, they must deny themself, and take up their cross and follow Me.[iv] That’s especially shocking since ‘the crosses’ that we believe we carry are not necessarily what Christ had in mind. Our cross is not so much about the burdens we have to bear as the cross being an instrument of death. Christ is saying here that if we are to follow Him we need first to be prepared to DIE!
WHAT? WHY? WHAT’S THAT MEAN? WHAT ABOUT US IS SUPPOSED TO DIE?
What Christ is mostly talking about here is the perfect realization of our truest possible selves!
He’s saying that if we are to be actualized into whom we’ve been actually made to be, we will need firstly to be prepared to let go of all the layered small, ego-identities that we have allowed and are still constantly allowing to be packed onto ourselves!
What you see and who I project and who I spend most of my time believing (both good and bad) is not my truest possible self! Because I am actually infinitely better than all this!
Of course there are these external parts of all that I am that are quite beautiful – and I cherish those, even as there are parts of how I live and what I do and think that I’m not so proud of. The point is that I may NEVER allow myself to be entirely defined by just all this outward stuff!
But the letting go of my small self in order to embrace my infinite better, truest possible ‘remade/reborn self’ actually hurts! It costs us! It’s what Dietrich Bonhoeffer came so famously and so accurately to call our ‘COSTLY DISCIPLESHIP!!!’
Our problem, however, is that living lives confined just to the embracing of whom we seem to be – defined by only our small ego selves – is what we all so instinctively know! It’s what is most familiar to us! It’s what we are most comfortable with, even. Just like – as we saw last week – that Gerasene demoniac seemingly so inextricably bound to his chains, or like Lazarus so bound within his grave clothes, the Bethesda paralytic stuck to his mat, or Peter having to step away from the apparent safety of his boat…
Doing those things IS uncomfortable! And unfamiliar! And THAT, I believe is Our Lord’s point in today’s text:
Dr FF Bruce describes this text among his ‘The Hard Sayings of Jesus’ and it is! It is hard to surrender – to let go of what we have been defaulting towards all our lives, even if it is to embrace something we know is so infinitely much better! But that must NEVER be allowed to stop us! Give! Give! Give! Give of yourself! Constantly be giving away your smallest self (as Mother Theresa said) …until it hurts…
It must hurt! …because that’s when we are at last letting our smallest selves get out of the way for our truest and best selves to begin at last to begin to take over…
That is true for us as individuals, and it’s true for us as community!
God is clearly up to stuff in our lives as individuals, in our lives together as Trinity community, and in our lives in this world of creation! We live into that as we allow our ego selves to get out of the way so that our truest selves can get with God’s program. May it be so.
Please, Dear God, as we allow ourselves to be drawn by you towards all of what you have ahead for us, may we NEVER allow ourselves to hold back.
Help us instead – in the fullness of your time – to emerge into whatever it is that you would have us be, do, become…
In Jesus’ name
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[i] 2 Corinthians 12:9
[ii] Romans 3
[iii] Romans 8
[iv] Mark 8:34