The Cost of Discipleship: by Jeff Keeney
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-27I imagine that if you heard a leader, pastor or teacher make such an absurd and radical statement, you would either laugh and run away or seek to have him banned from ever speaking at your church again. How do you think the crowds in the first century received this statement? We know from other texts that most of the crowd left Jesus including many of his disciples after other similar “hard” sayings. (cf. Jn 6:66) This stands in extreme contradistinction to how churches, evangelism and even discipleship programs look today! Should we re-evaluate our understanding of what Jesus expects from His followers? What is it exactly that Jesus expects?
David Platt in his book Radical makes the following observation:
‘He was simply and boldly making it clear from the start that if you follow him, you abandon everything – your needs, your desires, even your family.”
Was Jesus really telling us to abandon and hate our families? But I thought that we are to be “salt and light” and that the mark of Jesus’ followers was to love – not hate! As a matter of fact, didn’t Jesus tell us that the second greatest is to love our neighbors, even our family (yes – this means even uncle Fester), as ourselves? So what is Jesus talking about?
Platt continues his observation:
Even his simple call in Matthew 4 to his disciples – “Follow me” – contained radical implications for their lives. Jesus was calling them to abandon their comforts, all that was familiar to them and natural for them.
He was calling them to abandon their careers. They were reorienting their entire life’s work around discipleship to Jesus. Their plans and dreams were now being swallowed up in his.
Jesus was calling them to abandon their possessions. “Drop your nets and your trades as successful fishermen,” he was saying in effect.
Jesus was calling them to abandon their family and their friends. When James and John left their father, we see Jesus’ words in Luke 14 coming alive.
Ultimately, Jesus was calling them to abandon themselves. They were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, self-preservation for self-denunciation. In a world that prizes promoting oneself, they were following a teacher who told them to crucify themselves. And history tells us the result. Almost all of them would lose their lives because they responded to his invitation.
Does Jesus want to keep you from any good thing, or separate you from your family? I don’t think this is what we are to learn from these passages. He simply wants us to know that we do have to give up everything and live for Him and love Him in such a radical way that it would make our devotion to our families look like hate. He commands this knowing that our hearts are “ever prone to wander” and knows that there are many things – many good in and of themselves that will pull us away from devotion to Him. He calls for a radical reordering of our priorities, commitments, desires and affections – all as a loving Shepherd.
1. How has your life as a disciple of Jesus looked compared to His expectations of His disciples?
2. What areas of your life do you find yourself being pulled away from Christ?
3. What do you treasure most in life?
4. What do you think that you could not live without, and if it was gone – your life would lose its value and significance?
5. What areas of your life do you think need to be “radically reordered” as a disciple of Jesus?
6. What do you think would happen if you, your family, and your church made radical changes in life as disciples of Jesus?