Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-27. (NIV)
These are the words of Jesus to the crowd that was following him. It was not long before this that Jesus had fed loaves and fishes to the crowds. Most them following still anticipated watching him heal someone or waited to be fed. They listened to his words and parables, without fully understanding what he was saying. But when Jesus spoke his words they probably were wondering if he really meant what he said. He did.
Although there is much debate as to whether Jesus meant this literally or figuratively, the fact of the matter is that he wants us to follow and we need to weigh the cost. Sometimes I wonder if I really have what it takes to follow him no matter what is happening in the world around me. Would I still follow Jesus if my rights were taken away, if my property was forfeit, if my family disowned me and if it meant my very life? I would like to think, yes, I can. I hope and pray that I love Jesus enough to turn my back on everything I know to serve him.
I look at people through the ages who have counted the cost and paid it willingly, even with their very lives. I think of all the disciples who were killed, with only John dying a natural death. Stephen (in the book of Acts) is considered to be the very first Christian martyr for Christ. I think of the many martyrs through the ages who gave their lives doing what God called them to do (sometimes even opposing the organized church), From the apostles to William Tyndale in the Reformation era to the relatively recent death of Jim Elliot, individuals have given their lives for the sake of the gospel. Even today in many communist nations to become a Christian is to risk death. In Muslim countries to even entertain the thought of converting to Christianity can result in death.
I think the majority of American Christians have become complacent about counting the cost for serving Christ. Although I think there is a time coming that being a Christian in America will be risky, we are not there yet. While I think this passage is really about loving Christ above everything else, even your own life, sometimes I struggle with it. I find myself thinking if I am not brave enough to share the gospel with my neighbor, how am I ever going to be brave enough to die for Christ if the occasion warranted it? Counting the cost. That is really what every Christian needs to seriously consider when they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Can you pay the price if God asks it of you? Can I?